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Philips Tri Nations Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Aug 2008     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Newlands, Cape Town, Sunday August 17, 1.00am NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 74 – New Zealand 41, South Africa 30, drawn 3.

LAST TIME: July 12, 2008 (Dunedin) – New Zealand 28-30 South Africa.

WALKING WOUNDED: Andrew Ellis at halfback and Leon MacDonald at fullback are still out with their respective injuries for the All Blacks. South Africa will be without lock Bakkies Botha with his place taken by Andries Bekker. South Africa has also made several changes to the team which comfortably accounted for Argentina last weekend. John Smit is also still not fully recovered from injury.

FORM: Both teams have enjoyed breaks since they last met in the epic game at Carisbrook where halfback Ricky Januarie's try made all the difference. Januarie has been dropped to the bench with coach Peter de Villiers claiming he was starting to show the effects of a heavy workload this season. South Africa got back on track with a try-scoring romp against Argentina while the All Blacks produced their superb turnaround against Australia to keep their Tri Nations hopes alive.

WHO'S HOT: Wing JP Pietersen showed his appetite for tries hasn't abated with two against Argentina while No.8 Pierre Spies got on the score sheet as well and will be looking to put the acid on the All Blacks. First five-eighths Butch James got some target practice for his boot by landing conversions for all nine South African tries. Skipper Richie McCaw had a big game against Australia to revive New Zealand's spirits while first five-eighths Dan Carter thrived on halfback Jimmy Cowan's service, the latter pair also demonstrating good kicking touch. Fullback Mils Muliaina was also in good touch while locks Ali Williams and Brad Thorn were key men in the pack. Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock also thrived in the close quarter engagements and will be looking to do his talking in the scrimmaging.

WE THINK: It is a tough assignment always for New Zealand teams in South Africa and this will be no different. South Africa is playing with a high confidence level and being at home, even with the loss of a key man like Botha, it will be looking to shut New Zealand out of the championship race. New Zealand too, will be aware that it needs to show greater versatility in tactical appreciation, something that was the hallmark of its second Test win over Australia. A repetition of that adaptability would be enough to head South Africa. But 60 minutes of softening up is likely to be required.

TEAMS:

South Africa: 1 – Beast Mtawaira, 2 - Bismarck du Plessis, 3 - CJ van der Linde, 4 - Andries Bekker, 5 - Victor Matfield (captain), 6 - Schalk Burger, 7 - Juan Smith, 8 - Pierre Spies, 9 - Fourie du Preez, 10 - Butch James, 11 - Bryan Habana, 12 - Jean de Villiers, 13 - Adi Jacobs, 14 - JP Pietersen, 15 - Percy Montgomery.

Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, 17 - Brian Mujati, 18 - Danie Roussouw, 19 - Luke Watson, 20 - Ricky Januarie, 21 - Frans Steyn, 22 - Conrad Jantjes.

New Zealand: 1 – Tony Woodcock, 2 - Andrew Hore, 3 - Greg Sommerville, 4 - Brad Thorn, 5 - Ali Williams, 6 - Jerome Kaino, 7 - Richie McCaw (captain), 8 - Rodney So'oialo, 9 - Jimmy Cowan, 10 - Dan Carter, 11 - Sitiveni Sivivatu, 12 - Ma'a Nonu, 13 - Conrad Smith, 14 - Richard Kahui, 15 - Mils Muliaina.

Reserves: 166 - Keven Mealamu, 17 - John Afoa, 18 - Anthony Boric, 19 - Adam Thomson, 20 - Piri Weepu, 21 - Stephen Donald, 22 - Isaia Toeava.

REFEREE: Matt Goddard