WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Jul 23 – All Black lock Brodie Retallick predicted a fireworks against South Africa in Wellington this Saturday, as the southern hemisphere rivals both seek a mental edge ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
The Rugby Championship clash is a dress rehearsal for the global showpiece in Japan, where New Zealand and South Africa will face each other in their opening Pool B match on September 21.
Adding further spice to this weekend’s fixture, the Springboks upset the world champions 36-34 a year ago when they last played in the New Zealand capital.
Retallick noted that New Zealand and South Africa both rested key players for their victories over Argentina and Australia respectively last weekend with the Wellington showdown in mind.
“I think it’s going to be a fiery one… there’s going to be some fresh bodies, so no doubt there’s going to be plenty of energy,” he said.
“They won here last time in Wellington and obviously we want to be winning every time, so I guess it’ll be a big one. Wait and see.”
Assistant coach Ian Foster confirmed the All Blacks were fired up as they prepare to chase their third straight World Cup and fourth overall.
“It’s on everyone’s mind, you can’t deny that,” he said. “That brings out a real hunger, particularly in your top athletes who have been eyeing the prize for a long, long time.
“There’s no doubt there’s an edge in the group.”
Hulking South African hooker Malcolm Marx said the Springboks would not be taking a backward step in Wellington.
He said last year’s victory was pivotal in rebuilding a side that had slipped to seventh in the world rankings and endured a 57-0 mauling in their previous appearance in New Zealand.
“It was important for SA rugby to be honest… it built a lot more confidence in South African rugby,” he said.
Marx said another win in Wellington could give the Springboks a similar boost ahead of the World Cup but it was a feat easier said than done.
“I wouldn’t say we’re underdogs, we’re focusing on ourselves and where we can improve, not on them,” he said.
“I think it might bring a bit of momentum, obviously, but we have to focus on (the match) first.”
Assistant coach Matt Proudfoot said the Springboks could not afford to think too far ahead.
“When you’re playing the world’s best team in their own backyard you pay respect to that and prepare yourself for that challenge, irrespective of what’s at stake later in the year,” he said.
Proudfoot said his forwards were relishing the prospect of testing themselves against the All Blacks.
“We want to deliver ball to our team that we can play off and set our game plan down… we really want to put our standard down.”