Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 19 News List

'Boks set to face all-conquering All Blacks today

AFP , RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

Graham Henry's all-conquering New Zealand are out to record their 16th consecutive win to crown a memorable Tri-Nations campaign when they face South Africa at Rustenburg today.

The All Blacks have yet to lose this year and wrapped up the title with three matches still to be played. They beat Jake White's Springboks 45-26 in Pretoria last week and are favorites to repeat the performance when Test rugby arrives in the mining town of the Northwest Province for the first time since the World Cup in 1995.

In fact, the last time the All Blacks were beaten was on Aug. 6 last year in Cape Town when South Africa won 22-16.

How White would like to see a similar result just over a year later. His side have now lost five in a row, with the last win coming way back in June when they beat Scotland.

White and his team are under enormous pressure to get a positive result with a number of pundits this week calling for his head.

But instead SA Rugby boss Oregan Hoskins called a meeting for Thursday where White as well as former national coaches Carel du Plessis, Ian MacIntosh, Nick Mallett, Harry Viljoen and Rudolf Straeuli tried to plot the way forward for the 'Boks.

"It was a very productive meeting," the under-fire White said.

"There was a lot of experience in the room and the guys had plenty of advice to offer. We can only benefit from such discussions," he said.

Whatever was discussed is unlikely to be implemented this weekend. White named his side on Wednesday and seems to have already made up his mind of how to tackle the New Zealanders.

With veteran AJ Venter back at No. 8 and Pedrie Wannenburg on the openside flank, the Boks will look to play a more direct game and use the big forwards to drive the ball upfield.

Teams

* South Africa:

Jaque Fourie; Akona Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Andre Pretorius, Fourie du Preez; AJ Venter, Pierre Spies, Pedrie Wannenburg; Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, BJ Botha, John Smit (Capt), Os du Randt.

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Lawrence Sephaka, Albert van den Berg, Jacques Cronje, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Breyton Paulse.

* New Zealand:

Doug Howlett; Joe Rokocoko, Mils Muliaina, Aaron Mauger, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (Capt), Jerry Collins; Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Carl Hayman, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Anton Oliver, Neemia Tialata, Jason Eaton, Marty Holah, Byron Kelleher, Luke McAlister, Rico Gear.


Pierre Spies completes the new-look loose-trio, while Sharks hardman BJ Botha comes in at tighthead.

The most significant changes are at the back, however, where fullback Percy Montgomery loses his place in the side for the first time since the start of 2004.

In his place is the young and powerful Jaque Fourie, whose place at outside centre goes to Wynand Olivier.

At flyhalf Andre Pretorius, who came on as a replacement last week to spark the Bok backs, should ask a few more questions of the visiting back division.

He will also be entrusted with the goal-kicking duties.

The All Blacks' Henry has also rung the changes, but he's looking for one more big effort from his stars, captain Richie McCaw and flyhalf Dan Carter.

The two have been instrumental in the New Zealanders' march to success in the last two years, so much so that White pleaded with Henry to give the two players a break this weekend.

It won't only be the McCaw/Carter factor standing in the way of a Bok win today, but a lethal All Blacks team that is currently playing with plenty of confidence.

The back three -- Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu -- are sure to keep the Boks on their toes, while the clever Aaron Mauger is likely to bring another dimension to the game at inside center.

There is also a changed front row, lock pairing and back row, but the visitors remain the team to beat.

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