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All Blacks keen to make history

NZRU

<a href="http://www.sportal.co.nz" target="_blank">sportal.co.nz</a>     22 Aug 2006     NZRU

Sean Fitzpatrick's men of 1996, under coach John Hart, were the only team to win a series in South Africa en route to winning the first Tri Nations, and then completing the first full series played against the previously ostracised Springboks in 20 years.

While trips to South Africa hold few surprises for players who travel there at least once a year, and often twice, this year's tour is the first time more than one Test in a season has been played in 10 years.

Coach Graham Henry has already said that his selection team hasn't had a win in South Africa since they have been together but the players are looking for a place in the history books.

Lock Chris Jack summed it up when he said: "We're pretty excited about the tour of South Africa.

"It's our first tour and it's only been done once before with the All Blacks winning a series over there.

"We realise we've got to win both games over there and we're pretty excited about getting over there and giving it a dig.

"It takes a bit of pressure off us [having already won the Tri Nations] and we can just go out there and play our game and unleash our speed, hopefully."

They are not expecting it to be easy at all, and the fact they know South Africans will have seen how Australia's intimidatory tactics worked at the weekend and noted them.

Given some of the battles that have occurred between the All Blacks and Springboks in the past, the modern generation knows to expect anything.

"The crowds are angry up there, it's an intimidating place.

"They're not nice to you when you're on the field but they're your best mates off it.

"It's a pinnacle of All Black rugby really of the past. It took a long time to get that first win and we'd be really proud to emulate what those guys did," Jack said.

And ace first five-eighths Dan Carter agrees.

"We've struggled a bit in the past over there and I think there is some real incentive to go over there and play some good footy. We've [the modern group of players] never played two Tests over there one after another so that's going to be another huge challenge and something the boys are really looking forward to," he said.

As a kicker, Carter knows there are plenty of advantages in playing at altitude as they will in Pretoria and Rustenburg. The rarified air adds plenty of length to kicks, both tactical and goal-kicking.

"I'm really looking forward to it. It's tough over there and I really thrive on these sorts of challenges and I will test myself.

"I didn't do so well last year and it gives me every incentive to go out there and show my skills and play well out of New Zealand."

The game will offer a different tactical requirement from that faced against Australia. The rush defence of the South Africans is a much more direct style aimed at forcing mistakes and scattering ball in tackles for fast-following support players to put to their advantage.

"You've got to completely change your game with the two defences. They're right up in your face the South Africans but they create space in different areas so it's just a matter of executing that."

"They've got nothing to lose, they're going to be extremely passionate as they always are," he said.

Carter expects the rugby to be intense.

"We've got to be prepared for that.

"It's going to be a couple of extremely tough Test matches and we'll probably have to take another step up if we are going to come out with results."

But goal-setting has been a successful hobby for Henry's men and a place in the history books will replace the intensity missing as a result of the Tri Nations already being settled.