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Preview: New Zealand v South Africa

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Sportal.co.nz     16 Jul 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday July 17, 19:35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 79 - New Zealand 43, South Africa 33, Draws 3.

LAST TIME: July 10 (Auckland) - New Zealand 32-12 South Africa.

WALKING WOUNDED: All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan and wing Joe Rokocoko both battled through the week after injuries suffered in the first Test. Cowan had an abdominal strain and Rokocoko a hamstring tweak. Three-quarter Richard Kahui suffered a shoulder injury and was forced out of consideration, possibly for the remainder of the Tri Nations. While for South Africa, a calf strain suffered by Jannie du Plessis saw him replaced by CJ van der Linde. Bakkies Botha's replacement at lock Danie Roussouw suffered a calf strain and was in doubt on Thursday.

FORM: Based on the first Test the form all rests with New Zealand. But a concern will be that the Springboks were inhibited by their travel plans and the lingering effects of circadian disrhythmia. The vaunted loose forward trio was knocked off its game and No.8 Pierre Spies and flankers Francois Louw and Schalk Burger were unlikely to have been impressed. Their recovery will be vital for South Africa if it is to be more competitive. Centre Jaque Fourie looked the most dangerous of the backs while first five-eighths Morne Steyn's goal-kicking boot was the one part of the Springbok game functioning close to normal. New Zealand was impressive but knows it needs a follow-up in physicality and tempo to keep the pressure on the visitors. The mobility of the pack, loose and tight forwards, and the pressure from the inside backs in creating chances out wide made for an irresistible combination.

WHO'S HOT: Fullback Mils Muliaina demonstrated his experience with an outstanding display in the rearguard while second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu was a constant handful. No.8 Kieran Read was action personified while flanker Jerome Kaino had a bullocking night which freed his captain Richie McCaw for roaming duties where he was highly effective. Lock Brad Thorn was combative and hooker Keven Mealamu put his low-slung running to great effect. South Africa's loosies will be under pressure to match New Zealand at the tackle breakdown and if getting momentum they will be hard to shake. The danger of Fourie and wing Bryan Habana is always real and 50-50 passes could be dangerous.

WE THINK: Much depends on the way South Africa views its chances. If it merely attempts to enforce the game plan that let it down last week it could struggle to advance. But if it finds it is able to attempt to take on the All Blacks through the backline, and that would change the basic instinct of the Springbok, then a razzle-dazzle contest could be in store. New Zealand, on the other hand, knows that a one-off performance such as that last week will not be enough for home fans, nor will it be enough for a side which is looking to develop consistency. It is doubtful also that the All Blacks will allow South Africa the penalty advantage if enjoyed last week. The interest in this game is two-fold. Can the Springboks turn things around and can the All Blacks repeat, or improve. The South Africans face the bigger task which should see New Zealand go two-up from two played.

TEAMS:

New Zealand1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Keven Mealamu, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brad Thorn, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Richie McCaw (captain), 8.Kieran Read, 9.Piri Weepu, 10.Daniel Carter, 11.Rene Ranger, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: 16.Corey Flynn, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Sam Whitelock, 19.Liam Messam, 20.Jimmy Cowan, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Israel Dagg.

South Africa1. Gurthro Steenkamp, 2. John Smit (Captain), 3. CJ van der Linde, 4. Danie Rossouw, 5. Victor Matfield, 6. Schalk Burger, 7. Francois Louw, 8. Pierre Spies, 9. Ricky Januarie, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Bryan Habana, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Jaque Fourie, 14. Jean de Villiers, 15. Zane Kirchner.
Replacements: 16.Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17.BJ Botha, 18.Andries Bekker,19. Ryan Kankowski,20. Ruan Pienaar, 21.Butch James,22. Gio Aplon.

REFEREE:Alain Rolland