All Blacks inspired by Ellis Park
October 4, 2013
The All Blacks lost the Rugby World Cup 1995 final at Ellis Park, but they say they have no ghosts at the venue © Getty Images
Venues For Most All Blacks Test Losses
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen Hansen is relishing the prospect of playing a fired-up Springboks in The Rugby Championship decider at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
"That's probably exactly what this team needs at the moment," Hansen said of the challenge of beating South Africa at their most daunting venue. "When you're continually winning all the time, you need something to get up for. This is a team that we know are at their best at Ellis Park. You don't get any bigger challenge than that."
The All Blacks under Hansen have won 20 of 22 Tests since their Rugby World Cup 2011 triumph under Sir Graham Henry, a draw with Australia and loss to England last year the only black marks on their record. This year, they have overrun a tired France three times in June, beaten an underwhelming Wallabies twice, and seen off two game efforts from the Pumas, while world No.2 South Africa's bid for victory in Auckland was effectively snuffed out when hooker Bismarck du Plessis was sent off.
The All Blacks' victory in Auckland is the Springboks' only loss in their past 11 outings, and Hansen expects a brutal response from the hosts at a cauldron-like ground where the All Blacks have won just three of 11 Tests. Their eight losses at Ellis Park make it the scene of the fifth-most New Zealand defeats, but only Eden Park of the four venues where they have lost more often remains a Test ground.
"We can be frightened about the crowd's influence, or we can embrace it," Hansen said. "There's a good mental strength in the side. It's when we're under pressure that we're at our best. All the cards are probably stacked in their favour but we've won here before and we're a good enough side to win here again."
To win the Rugby Championship, the Springboks must deny the All Blacks a bonus point and score four tries in the process - something they haven't achieved in their past 21 Tests against New Zealand. But Hansen expects his opponents to chase the scenario hard, meaning they will turn down penalty shots at goal in favour of kicking for touch and launching lineout drives.
"They'll probably feel reasonably comfortable they've got the wood over us there; we'll have to stop that," he said.
Follow live text commentary of the Test between South Africa and New Zealand on Saturday, October 5 from 3pm (GMT) , 1am (AEST, October 6), 4am (NZDT, October 6)
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament