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Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

<a href="http://www.sportal.co.nz" target="_blank">sportal.co.nz</a>     25 Aug 2006    

VENUE & TIME: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, Sunday August 27, 1.00 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 68 - All Blacks 37, South Africa 28, Draws 3.

LAST TIME: July 22, 2006 (Wellington) - All Blacks 35-17 South Africa.

WALKING WOUNDED: South Africa will be without its leading open-side flanker Juan Smith after he suffered a leg injury at training during the week. He joins a long list of injured Springboks. They include: lock Bakkies Botha, flanker Schalk Burger and prop Gurthro Steenkamp. Centre Jean de Villiers has returned to the side after recovering from injury. The All Blacks still have prop Carl Hayman and second five-eighths Aaron Maugerout of consideration due to injuries.

FORM: South Africa has been off the Tri Nations track for a fortnight since its last Test against Australia while so many changes have been made to the All Blacks for the game that a form guide on the team alone can only be guide. South Africa struggled on the road while the All Blacks have already won the Tri Nations and are exposing more players to international play. With Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina and Leon MacDonald it has a solid core around which to build.

WHO'S HOT: Sitiveni Sivivatu showed his readiness to return with good form for Waikato in domestic play and if he is to force his way into the top XV he will have to overcome some fine play by Joe Rokocoko. Luke McAlister made a fine start at second five-eighths last week while McCaw, with Chris Masoe and Reuben Thorne in support should be able to maintain New Zealand's dominance in this area. For South Africa, Butch James will be looking to unleash wings Akona Ndungane and Bryan Habana. Lock Victor Mayfield is always a danger, especially as the All Blacks look to overcome their lineout woes.

WE THINK: The All Blacks selectors continue to put their rotation policy to the test and this will be another trial for the scheme. On paper this side does not look the most competitive unit, but if able to gain parity of possession, and to continue the improvements in the lineout, then there is no reason why this side cannot add another win to the collection. A superior South African defensive effort can be expected and the return of Jean de Villiers may offer more adventure from the home backline.

TEAMS:

New Zealand: 1 - Neemia Tialata, 2 - Anton Oliver, 3 - Greg Somerville, 4 - Greg Rawlinson, , 5 - Ali Williams, 6 - Reuben Thorne, 7 - Richie McCaw (Captain), 8 - Chris Masoe, 9 - Piri Weepu, 10 - Dan Carter, 11 - Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 - Luke McAlister, 13 - Mils Muliaina, 14 - Rico Gear, 15 - Leon MacDonald.

Reserves: 16 - Keven Mealamu, 17 - Tony Woodcock, 18 - Chris Jack, 19 - Jerry Collins, 20 - Jimmy Cowan, 21 - Sam Tuitupou, 22 - Isaia Toeava.

South Africa: 1 - Os du Randt. 2 - John Smit (Captain), 3 - CJ van der Linde, 4 - Johann Muller, 5 - Victor Matfield, 6 - Solly Tyibilika, 7 - Joe van Niekerk, 8 - Jacques Cronje, 9 - Fourie du Preez, 10 - Butch James, 11 - Bryan Habana, 12 - Jean de Villiers, 13 - Jaque Fourie, 14 - Akona Ndungane, 15 - Percy Montgomery.

Reserves: 16 - Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 - BJ Botha, 18 - Albert van den Berg, 19 - To be named, 20 - Ruan Pienaar, 21 - Wynand Olivier, 22 - André Pretorius.

REFEREE: A Lewis

Touch Judges: C White, H Watkins
TMO: E Darriere