All Blacks expect best effort from Boks

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Lynn McConnell     12 Sep 2018     Getty Images

Taking on South Africa in Wellington in their Investec Rugby Championship Test on Saturday was typical because playing the Springboks always involved more elements of competition based on the historic rivalry between the sides.

The All Blacks know that whenever they face South Africa, whatever their recent record, they are going to face a physical confrontation. Nothing has ever changed in that regard since contact began in 1919.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said in his experience there had never been an easy Test against South Africa and the contests had always been 100 percent physical and brutal.

The All Blacks were aware of the hunger the South Africans would bring to the game. They had seen them beat a good England team in their June series, and they were aware they had lost two Tests on the road.

"We've got to prepare to play a team that is going to turn up and play the best game of the year. We always look at 'what-ifs' and how they're going about it.

Foster said he had observed over the last seven or eight years that South Africa had started to trust a more 15-man game and the two countries had played some classic, and very exciting, games.

"We expect that but it is going to be based on a collision and a toughness, you have got to win that battle in any Test but you certainly have to win it this week.

"We know that if we get our mindset right and our detail in our game right that gives us our best chance of playing well and winning, so there comes a point in the week that we don't spend a lot of time in the week talking about the opposition, it's more about us," he said.

"They love the collision, they're tough there, they carry hard. They take a lot of pride in their set-piece work and they've got some backs that really enjoy space out wide if we give it to them. They've got a lot of speed.

"It's not so much are they playing different, it's just some of the tactics within each part of the game and when you put them under pressure it's where they go to under those pressure moments and that's probably what we spend most time looking at," he said.

Foster said the All Blacks had given themselves lots of opportunities from good lineout work by the forwards, a lot of defensive pressure and they were happy with the volume of opportunity from which they had been able to achieve a good strike rate. 

They were also working on systems, such as seen from first five-eighths Beauden Barrett against Australia in Auckland when appearing in different positions on the field to capitalise on his specific qualities.

But at the same time they were aware teams would be working hard to reduce the number of opportunities they received and attempting to find a different way to defend it.

News was also better on the injury front. Sonny Bill Williams' scan was clear and he was ready to be considered again, although he had a slight setback when illness prevented him training on Tuesday.

Lock Brodie Retallick still hadn't been scanned to assess his shoulder injury.

Flanker Sam Cane and second five-eighths Ryan Crotty were fully recovered and in the mix for selection.

"We had a great week in Nelson and really well supported by the community there and you felt it, you felt a lot of excitement there and it would be nice to come here and play the way we really want to play before we head off overseas," he said.