Breakdown Dominance Crucial in Pre-World Cup Clash
Getting the advantages at the breakdown will be what the All Blacks and Springboks seek in their pre-World Cup game at Twickenham on Saturday morning (NZT).
All Blacks captain Sam Cane said while the New Zealanders made the better start and got out to a handy first-half lead, the Springboks had a solid second-half recovery due to them starting to assert themselves at the breakdown.
"If we are going to have a good night then the breakdown, as always, is going to be an important area."
The difference this time is that blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, who highlighted his good form with a dominant display, is out with a hamstring injury and is replaced by Luke Jacobson. Cane, who plays with Jacobson for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, said he thought that would have little effect.
He said, "Although Shannon and Luke have their respective strengths, there are a lot of similarities to what they will bring to our loose forward trio – physicality, strong ball carry, strong in the tackle, so hopefully having Ardie [Savea] and me there, it gives Luke the confidence to go out and nail his role at six [blindside flanker].
"He's been training really well the last couple of months and had limited opportunities so I'm pretty sure he'll be keen to take those with both hands. But I don't that will change anything for Ardie or myself."
Cane said it would be a special and unique occasion.
"Hopefully we'll have slightly more black jerseys [that Springbok shirts] in the crowd."
It was also exciting because the starting group hadn't played for a few weeks and were keen to put in a performance they could be proud of.
He felt playing the South Africans as a final warm-up would be beneficial and a step or two up from the last World Cup when they had a romp against Tonga in New Zealand.
Being in London, handy to France, to play their last game was different and a good challenge, ensuring their feet were on the ground where they needed to be.
Firming up combinations would also be valuable. That was something coach Ian Foster and the management team had been consistent upon through the earlier Tests in the season.
Regarding the heightened emphasis on tackle technique, Cane said the All Blacks focused on hitting below the ball as the first point of contact.
"We believe the rules, to us, are pretty clear. We'll just keep defending the way we have been. We know the head is a no-go zone and we'll do our best to make sure our technique is spot on. We realise that things move and happen really quickly but we'll give ourselves the best chance of being in a good legal position. It's small moments and small margins."