CAPE TOWN – If the Springboks or anyone else thought that the All Blacks weren’t taking Saturday’s dead-rubber Rugby Championship showdown seriously, they would’ve quickly realised on Thursday that Steve Hansen means business.
They may have been murmurs that Hansen could rest some of his stars such as Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and even captain Kieran Read for the Newlands encounter, but there was no such luck for Allister Coetzee’s under-pressure Boks.
Barrett, Smith, Read, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty – they’re all there.
In fact, add in Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane – two of the many Bok tormentors in the 57-0 destruction in Albany – Sam Cane is also back after sitting out last week’s Argentina game.
Sam Whitelock, of course, will run the lineouts, Liam Squire returns at blindside flank, and it all adds up to one tremendous juggernaut ready to put on one final show in the Rugby Championship for their many Cape Town fans.
The only magical piece missing from the All Black puzzle is star lock Brodie Retallick, who is back home in New Zealand with his wife Niki after a miscarriage.
All in all, there will be no respite for Eben Etzebeth and his team, despite the fact that the All Blacks wrapped up the Rugby Championship title last week already.
Hansen said in a statement on Thursday that his players have settled in well in the Mother City this week, but due to the long travel, the preparation “has been different” as they have to recover, which has seen them train less and added emphasis on the mental side of things.
“We know we’ll be playing a proud Springbok side, which will be determined to rectify what happened in Albany,” the All Black coach said.
“While it’s necessary for us to try and anticipate what they’re going to bring to the match, it’s more important for us to focus on what we’re going to bring to the encounter.
“Our skill execution, our physicality and our ability to play our ‘triple threat’ game will be critical.”
And he didn’t forget the “Cape Crusaders” who welcomed them at the airport and who will be screaming their lungs out for the men in black on Saturday as the All Blacks return to Cape Town for the first time since 2008, when they won 19-0.
“The team is really looking forward to playing at Newlands after a nine-year absence,” Hansen said.
“We know we have a huge fanbase here, and the hospitality and reception we have received from the local folks has been fantastic.
“We look forward to their support, as well as the support of all our New Zealand and global fans, come Saturday.”
All Black Team
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Bench: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 David Havili.