Rugby Union: All Blacks ready for the big game

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The Independent Online
NEW ZEALAND'S battle-hardened players are confident they will expose South Africa to the harsh realities of the modern game in Saturday's momentous Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

The All Blacks, refreshed by a day out at a game park on Tuesday, believe they have seen nothing in their 17 days in the republic to suggest the re-emerging Springboks will win the first official match between the countries since 1981.

After comfortable victories in their four warm-up games, the experienced winger John Kirwan feels that complacency is the All Blacks' biggest pre-match worry. 'It's important we don't go in with too much confidence, but just enough to keep us down to earth,' he said. 'Against the Junior Springboks at the weekend we won 25-10 without playing as well as we could have, which puts us in good stead for the Test.'

The captain Sean Fitzpatrick agreed. 'That match was an ideal build-up for the forwards. We've still got a lot of hard work to do but if we can minimise the mistakes we made last weekend, it'll go a long way to helping us win.' All Blacks sides rarely take days off in the week prior to a Test match, so the game park visit also hinted at a relaxed frame of mind.

'It is not our normal practice, but the players will have used it for mental preparation,' Fitzpatrick added.

New Zealand have no shortage of incentive after their narrow 2-1 Bledisloe Cup series defeat against Australia last month.

There is also the uncomfortable statistic that an All Blacks touring team has never beaten the Springboks in a series in their own country, a sequence stretching back to 1928.

History and tradition appear to be South Africa's chief allies if their long-awaited return to the international fold is not to end up as a damp squib.

Many observers, from South African rugby's executive president, Danie Craven, downwards, are concerned the Springboks forwards may not be fit and mobile enough to match the All Blacks.

NEW ZEALAND (Test v South Africa, Johannesburg, Saturday): J Timu; J Kirwan, F Bunce, W Little, V Tuigamala; G Fox, A Strachan; O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), R Loe, R Brooke, I Jones, M Jones, Z Brooke, J Joseph.

Australia's selectors yesterday declined to give the wing David Campese a rest when they announced the Wallabies side to face Northern Transvaal in Pretoria tomorrow. Campese played in the opening 46-13 win over Western Transvaal on Tuesday but, along with the flanker David Wilson, is required for duty again.

AUSTRALIA (v Northern Transvaal, Pretoria, tomorrow): T Kelaher; D Campese, J Little, T Horan, P Carozza; M Lynagh, N Farr-Jones (capt); S Scott-Young, D Wilson, J Eales, R McCall, T Coker, E McKenzie, P Kearns, T Daly.