Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

South Africa v New Zealand

Latest rugby union news

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen conceded his side have been "cruising along" in the Rugby Championship, but accepts Saturday's title decider against South Africa in Johannesburg represents one of the biggest challenges in the sport.

The All Blacks have won all five matches they have played in the 2013 competition with only South Africa offering any kind of threat to their supremacy in Auckland three weeks ago.

New Zealand came through 29-15 on that occasion but Hansen knows the Springboks at Ellis Park are a different proposition.

"There's a genuine edge and sense of excitement in the team," Hansen said.

"We're looking forward to a massive challenge. That's probably exactly what this team needs at the moment.

"They've been cruising along and winning games. When you're continually winning all the time you need something to get up for.

"This is a team that we know are at their best. We know they're at their best at Ellis Park. You don't get any bigger challenge than that.

"All the cards are probably stacked in their favour but we've won here before and we're a good enough side to win here again."

South Africa need a four-try win, while preventing their opponents from picking up a bonus point of their own, to claim the title.

It is winner takes all but Hansen is not expecting the home side to deviate from their normal tactics.

"They'll come with their standard game, which is physical," he added.

"They're in a situation where they need five points and they have to score four tries.

"Rather than kicking a goal they'll kick to the corner and look to drive. They'll probably feel reasonably comfortable they've got the wood over us there. We'll have to stop that."

New Zealand are boosted by the return of inspirational captain Richie McCaw while prop Charlie Faumuina also comes in.

South Africa's biggest threat is likely to come from flying winger Bryan Habana.

Habana, who will win his 92nd cap, has faced many New Zealand sides over the years and feels this one is up there with the best.

"The All Blacks are not the number one team in the world for nothing. They are a fantastic team," he told www.iol.co.za.

"What they are good at is when they get an opportunity to counter-attack they are fantastic. When they get the opportunity to put teams under pressure in their own half, they capitalise on those opportunities immensely well.

"We have to make sure that not only our defence, but our attack is vastly improved. So that not only are we playing in the right areas of the field, we are putting them under pressure on attack as well.

"When you have guys like Aaron Cruden and Israel Dagg, who have fantastic kicking games, you are going to be chased around the park a bit.

"It's not only going to be a tactical game, it's going to be a clever game as well. We have to think quite a bit about them."

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