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Battered Boks look for answers in today's test against All Blacks

Battered Boks look for answers in today's test against All Blacks

A week after one of its worst losses, South Africa faces the world's best team when it takes on the All Blacks in a Tri-Nations rugby union test today.Belabored by critics after their 49-0 loss to Australia at Brisbane last weekend, the Springboks are desperate to avoid greater humiliation against the No. 1-ranked New Zealanders in the 50th rugby test played at Wellington.
Coach Jake White and senior players have assured South African fans they will be more competitive today than in Brisbane where they suffered their heaviest loss to Australia and came within a point of their worst international defeat.
Foul play
Allegations of foul play swirled around the Springboks before the Brisbane match, revived by South African reports of a bounty placed by Springbok players on Wallabies flanker George Smith.
The All Blacks remember a particularly cynical tackle by Springbok lock Victor Matfield on halfback Byron Kelleher in last year's Tri-Nations match at Cape Town which left Kelleher with a serious head injury.
Piri Weepu, who will start at halfback ahead of Kelleher, said the South Africans like to intimidate their opponents and New Zealand would have to be prepared for those tactics today.
"They like to get at you a bit and put you off your game so the boys have to stay disciplined and not give stupid penalties away," Weepu said. "We know not to stoop to their level and let them put us off. They try to get you really fired up so you lose your temper and do stupid things on the field."
But Springboks captain John Smith said foul play was no longer part of his team's game plan.
"We haven't had an incident with regards to dirty play for quite some time, especially since Jake's been the coach," Smit said.
"It's something we are proud of in our side. We do like to play a hard game of rugby, but we don't need to get dirty at this level. It's not something in our makeup."
Determined and focused
Matfield, who will play his 50th test today, said last week's loss had made the Springboks determined and focused.
"You don't need to read the papers to know how bad you are ... that you've let the whole country down," said Matfield.
"We had a week to change things around and we'll be a much better team on Saturday. I believe we're playing a much better team so it's going to be tough."
The Springboks made five changes for the match, most notably at flyhalf where Butch James and Meyer Bosman have been bracketed. James is likely to play if he arrives in good condition after a hasty trip from South Africa.
The All Blacks made eight changes, continuing a rotational policy aimed at building depth for next year's World Cup. Their most notable selection is of former captain Reuben Thorne at blindside flanker, which costs them the physical skills of Jerry Collins.


Updated : 2021-10-16 23:39 GMT+08:00