Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Kiwis not sure what to expect

CAUTIOUS Mindful of the fact that the 'Boks could hardly play worse than they did last week, the All Blacks' Wayne Smith said they would be ready for anything

AFP , WELLINGTON

The All Blacks perform their new haka prior to the start of the Tri-Nations match against the Wallabies at Jade Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, on July 8.

PHOTO: AFP

South Africa's woeful performance against Australia last weekend has baffled the All Blacks, who admit to being unsure what to expect in their Tri-Nations rugby Test in Wellington tomorrow.

When the Springboks' backline failed to function, and the forwards were aimless, they appeared to have no plan "B" as they submitted to a 0-49 drubbing in Brisbane.

But All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith, rated an astute tactician, said the Springboks have shown previously they can switch styles with devastating effect.

"In the back of my mind I've a niggling doubt about how they're going to play on the weekend," he said yesterday as he recalled the All Blacks' narrow win over the Springboks in Dunedin last year.

"In the last five minutes after we scored they ran everything at us and they actually ran ball from deep in their territory and nearly got away," Smith said.

"So I think they've got the ability to do it, but it's just whether we get the conditions, and whether they've got the mindset on the weekend and the composure to put it together," he said.

South African coach Jake White has tried to put a brave face on the Australian loss, with a plea that his injury-ridden side not be judged on one disaster.

"It was a poor performance and it happens. Tiger Woods never made the US Open golf cut this year and he's the No. 1 golfer in the world," he said.

It was an analogy that flattered the Springboks who never looked like going close to threatening the Wallabies, and resulted in White making five changes to the starting line up against the All Blacks, including the bracketing of Butch James -- who only joined the squad this week -- and Meyer Bosman at flyhalf.

The decision on who will play will not be made until just before game time, but Smith felt sure that White would plump for James to strengthen the Springboks' defense.

"Putting myself in Jake White's shoes, I wouldn't fly someone over just to sit on the bench. I guess the only decisions will be how he has recovered from the flight, what's his mental state, does he know the moves and game plan?" Smith said.

"But I think if they answer `yes' to all of those questions he will play," he said.

The inclusion of James would further add to the All Blacks' headache of settling on a game plan as a string of injuries have kept the pivot out of the limelight in recent years.

"2002 was the last time I've seen him," Smith said.

"We have been able to do a lot of research on Meyer Bosman and Jaco van der Westhuizen, but Butch is a bit of an unknown," he said.

He's a gain-line player both on attack and defense so he is slightly different to the other two, so it will make a difference to us about how we play depending on who is at 10," Smith said.

If reading the Springboks was difficult, the other big task for the All Blacks coaches was to avoid any sign of complacency in their camp.

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