Auckland – Dan Carter is hoping that the return of All Blacks midfield juggernaut Ma’a Nonu will save him from a brutal Rugby Championship encounter with the Springboks on Saturday.
Nonu missed last week’s scrappy win against the Pumas in Hamilton with a niggling hamstring injury, and a relieved Carter confirmed that his long-time No 12 partner was itching to get stuck into the South Africans.
“Ma’a is a bit of a go-to man for me,” the 96-Test pivot said on Tuesday. “He’s one of those guys who can get you over the gain-line whenever you need it, and his footwork and strength are real attributes that encourage me to give him the ball and get us going forward.”
Nonu, 31, is listed at 107kg and less than 15 per cent of that is fat. But he’s more than just a block of go-forward on two legs, he’s a Test veteran.
“He’s a good man to have outside me because he’s experienced,” added Carter. “So with an occasion like this, he’s nice and relaxed and thinking clearly as well.
“He’s has been in good form for the All Blacks and sitting back and watching last weekend would have been frustrating for him.”
Last week, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer labelled the Wallabies backline as the most exciting combination he’d seen in a long time. With Nonu back at inside centre, the All Blacks unit has a balance that makes them less exciting than the Australians, and far more dangerous.
“A really physical side like the Boks, they’re big boys, and that’s just the challenge that we need,” said Carter.
“There’s only one way to go about fronting them and that’s by matching them physically.”
Meyer’s plan is to pulverise the All Blacks with a pack picked for nastiness, not niceties.
Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe will again run out at No 5, with Juandré Kruger coming off the bench in the second half.
This is part of a plan revolving around dominant scrumming and spin-off benefits at the rucks that follow.
If the plan works, Nonu will spend Saturday eating mud pie served up by Bok ball-carriers like Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts.
The All Blacks line-up will be announced on Thursday.
South Africa: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Willie le Roux, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Flip van der Merwe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Gurthro Steenkamp, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Juandre Kruger, 20-Siya Kolisi, 21-Jano Vermaak, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.