Pieter-Steph du Toit is ready for the battle at the breakdown when the Boks take on the All Blacks. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

TOKYO – South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit has made a successful transition from the second-row to blindside flanker, and now he is set to face a formidable opponent who has made a similar switch.

Ardie Savea has usually packed down as an openside flanker for the All Blacks and the Hurricanes, but is likely to operate on the blindside in his country's World Cup opener with the Springboks at the International Stadium in Yokohama on Saturday.

Savea may combine with renowned breakdown specialist Sam Cane, and they will look to slow down the Springboks' possession on the ground.

But the 25-year-old loose forward – the younger brother of All Blacks wing Julian – has a high work-rate around the pitch, and will also be tough to stop with ball-in-hand.

He broke Springbok hearts by scoring the winning try in the Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld in October 2018, and will be closely marked by the South Africans.

"Ardie is an unbelievable player," Du Toit said at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday.

"He is very strong on his feet and a very smart player as well, good at the breakdown. We see him as a threat, so we’ve got to focus on that and make sure our breakdown is quite secure as well.

"They are a team that really targets the breakdown... a very smart team, especially with their forwards and the way they work the system out.

"We’ve got to do a lot of research and planning to make sure our stuff works well for us.”

Du Toit has some fond memories of matches against New Zealand in recent seasons. Many Boks fans will remember the tears he shed after his team beat the three-time world champions 34-32 in Wellington last year, where he was one of the standout performers.

The 27-year-old, who earned his 50th Test cap against Japan a few weeks ago, feels South Africa have equipped themselves well enough to clinch another victory on Saturday.

"It was nice to play against the All Blacks in the past few games," Du Toit said.

"But for us as a team, we must focus on what makes us strong. We know what we have to do, and we've done some good research as well (to work out) where we can try and exploit their weaknesses.”  

African News Agency (ANA)