Henry wary of altitude factor
August 18, 2010
Will the heat and high altitude take its toll on Henry's All Blacks? © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry has conceded that Johannesburg's altitude factor could prove the biggest hurdle between his side and the Tri-Nations crown.
The All Blacks have not tasted success on the Highveld - the upper plateau region of the country - since 2006 when they beat the Springboks 45-26 in Pretoria but more recently they were thumped 40-24 at Ellis Park in 2004 and beaten 28-19 in Bloemfontein last year.
"We're not getting ahead of ourselves," Henry said. "We know the challenges of playing up here at altitude. We were here in 2004 at Ellis Park where we got well beaten up by the Boks. We know it is a big job to win here.
"New Zealand teams come here regularly in the Super 14 and try and play in Super 14 semis and finals and realise it is hard to try and get things together in a week and play on a Saturday. We are under no illusions to how difficult the task is. Quite frankly, that is all we are thinking about at the moment, is to try and do the job and play well."
The New Zealanders currently top the Tri-Nations standings and need just a point in their remaining two matches to clinch the title. However, there will be more than 90,000 supporters willing the home team on after a rugby international was moved for the first time to Soweto and it's now famous venue - Soccer City, which hosted the recent football World Cup final. And Henry is expecting the hosts to come out firing.
"Peter de Villiers has done a great job selecting his team," added Henry. "It's a very strong side and they'll be very motivated playing in Soweto for the first time."
The All Blacks lost all three Tests to the world champions last year and their coach is also desperate to reverse that scoreline. "This has been our motivation since the series started. If we can pull it off it will be wonderful but it will be difficult. South African players get used to playing at this altitude and know what is required whereas our fellas play one or two games a year at altitude. We don't have that sort of experience and it makes the challenge harder. We're up for it."