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All Blacks face Springbok litmus test

All Blacks face Springbok litmus test

first_imgAt the start of the international season Springbok rugby was at an all-time low.2016 was the worst season in South Africa’s history. They won just four of their twelve games, were humbled by their heaviest defeat to New Zealand in 95 years, and didn’t win a single test away from home.They fell to their first ever home defeat to Ireland and their first ever loss to Argentina in South America.Fast forward and they’re now nipping at the heels of the unbeaten All Blacks in the Rugby Championship standings, following two big wins over the Pumas and last week’s draw with Australia.Coach Allister Coetzee, who kept his job despite his dismal first year in charge, believes 2017 has been a new beginning for Springbok rugby.”The big thing is the team environment has changed completely. The big factor was the time that we could spend together. We’ve had some proper training camps this year.”He said the players are a much more unified band of brothers and he say’s that’s being reflected the field.The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen shares the sentiments. “They seem to be incredibly tight with each other so they’re obviously building something there from a cultural point of view and that will make them more dangerous. They’ve changed their attack coach, they’ve changed their defence coach so there’s two new people in there doing pretty good work by the look of it.”Albany is the most South African corner of the country, the braai will be burning on Saturday night with Springbok supporters heading to the test en mass.Coetzee is grateful for the expat energy, but he knows anything less than a near perfect performance will result in defeat.”You always know in the last 20 minutes they score at least 20 plus points, so you’ve got to play and be at your best for the full 80 minutes.”The respect is mutual, with assistant coach Ian Foster describing the game as the All Blacks biggest test of 2017.”Your mind conjures up some of the great games of the past and the great rivalries and this is no different. For us this is a pretty special game.”You’ve got to take the hat off to the way they’ve rebounded from last year and just changed quite dramatically within a very short time period. Clearly they’ve got a youthful team that really look like they want to play with each other and that’s a dangerous beast.”If the All Blacks can tame the beast in Albany, they’ll all but quash any hopes the others had of knocking them off their Rugby Championship throne.last_img read more