New Zealand v South Africa, Tri-Nations, Auckland, July 10
Springboks delay team announcement
July 6, 2010
Springboks skipper John Smit greets some fans at a training session in Auckland © Getty Images
South Africa have delayed naming their side to face New Zealand in their opening Tri-Nations clash as they await fitness updates on locks Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha.
The two fierce rivals will go head-to-head at Eden Park on Saturday in the first of back-to-back Test clashes that will kick start the latest battle for the southern hemisphere crown. And Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has opted to give his medical team further time to work on the minor injuries being carried by his two second rows.
Aside from Rossouw and Botha, the remainder of the 28-man squad has been given a clean bill of health ahead of Saturday's match. The full squad assembled in Auckland on Monday evening after travelling in two groups on Saturday and Sunday. Players had a gym session in the morning on Tuesday and their first field session at Onewa Park in the afternoon.
Speaking at a press conference earlier in the day, captain John Smit said the squad was looking forward to the defence of their Tri-Nations crown. "It's always good to come here," Smit said. "There is a great rivalry between us and the All Blacks and we expect a tough contest. The nature of the Tri-Nations is that any one of the three teams can beat the other on any given day which makes it a very difficult competition indeed.
"The All Blacks are going to be as competitive as they were last year, if not more so because of the fact that they didn't win it last year," Smit said. "They are the team that has won the Tri-Nations the most out of all three of us. Not winning it really irritates them. I'm pretty sure they are going to rock up pretty worked up and ready to go on Saturday."
Smit is also wary of the weight of history with his side looking to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park for the first time since 1937. "It's a tough place to play rugby against a tough team," he said. "You try and come with the best you have got and you certainly try to stick to your strengths. If you can do that and manage to get a few things right … that hasn't been done for a long time because it is such a big challenge. So we are certainly up against it on Saturday."
Smit indicated the Springboks were determined not to rest on their laurels, saying they would be foolish to think they were the game's leaders based on what they did last year.
"To keep doing the same things and expecting the same results and not thinking that other teams will catch you would be naive," he said. "It really is for us to make sure that we can keep stepping up each weekend."
At the same time, Smit didn't want to look too far ahead, even if next year is World Cup year and this weekend's test venue will stage the cup final. "For us to get too wrapped up in what the World Cup is about next year would be a bit foolish," he said. "We've got a three-week campaign which takes us halfway through the Tri-Nations."
"Wayne Barnes' decision to give Dylan Hartley his marching orders was brave but crucially it was the correct call." Graham Jenkins reports from the Premiership final
"We wanted to get the rugby spirit across to people, I firmly believe we have been in the thick of it." Tom Hamilton speaks to the ESPN crew on the final live broadcast
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
"The fans could not be happier with the opposition and it adds an exciting element to a game that is shaping up as a thriller." Ben Kay previews the Premiership final showdown