All Blacks wary of injured Boks
July 25, 2011
All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith takes charge of training © Getty Images
The All Blacks insist they will not underestimate an understrength and underperforming South Africa side ahead of the Tri-Nations clash on Saturday.
South Africa were unimpressive against Australia in the opening Tri-Nations match in Sydney as they lost 39-20 in Sydney. With more than 20 experience players either injured or resting in South Africa and forwards Flip van der Merwe and Heinrich Brussow also ruled out of the match in Wellington, the Springboks head into the game as firm underdogs.
But All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith is wary of the threat posed by a Springboks side stung by recent criticism.
"I think they've got plenty of talent," Smith said. "If they've got anything near the feeling we have in our team then they'll be hungry. It'll be a contest for spots in their team, just as it is in ours.
"I think their performance was like ours on the back of three or four training runs. I think they were rusty. We've seen them beaten over there before and come over and play really well here so we've just to make sure that we look after our performance."
South Africa's injury crisis has been most acute in the second-row ranks with Van der Merwe the latest to be sidelined. Veteran locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha are being rested, while Johan Muller is suffering from a hamstring injury and Andries Bekker requires ankle surgery. But New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock believes the All Blacks will be in for a formidable challenge, whoever plays.
"Whoever you pick from South Africa they run out there, sing their anthem and they're going to be firing and they're going to come at you with everything that they've got," said Whitelock who appeared as a replacement in three wins over the Springboks last year, his first year of international rugby.
Fullback Mils Muliaina, who will play his 96th test if he takes to the field against the Springboks, is too experienced to take any side lightly, especially one well beaten the week beforehand.
"I think they'll be hurting. They know themselves that they didn't play as well as they can and we know in our camp how much better they can get.
"It was practically their first run together and coming to Wellington they're going to bring their 'A' game and we're looking forward to it," the 30-year-old said.
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