A true Test for New Zealand

The All Blacks will venture warily into the unknown in Cape Town on Saturday, aware of the gruelling expectations and certain pressure about to be exerted by both the world champions Springboks and their own nation in the match that may decide this year’s Tri-Nations Championship.

The combination of the two is a dizzying prospect. The physicality of the South Africans and the enormous demands from home will hit this new look All Blacks side simultaneously at kick off time, at Newlands tomorrow afternoon. Strong men will need to stand up to handle this intimidating challenge.



All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith spent some time outlining the heavy demands of these occasions, on another warm, sunny Cape Town afternoon. Alas, the delights of this enchanting city for visitors beside the southern ocean will dissipate at kick-off time on Saturday.



Smith was asked about the pressures of trying to build a new-look All Blacks side and keep winning every Test match during that process. Images of Croesus trying gamely to push his stone up a hill came flooding to mind as Smith outlined the philosophy behind the task.



“It is not important what others think” he said. “All that matters is us, and what the players who are here at the moment think. We are trying to do our best for them. They are a hell of a good group and I hope they can become a great group. It’s their job to work at that. Anything else doesn’t make any difference to me. I don’t even care about it.



“The other pressures are other people’s pressures, not mine. My pressures are about doing the best I can for these players, being better as a coach, trying to give them great experience. There is nothing better than seeing those guys come off the paddock with smiles on their faces because they have performed well. That is what we are in it for.



“People try to put a lot of expectations on us but we are hard enough on ourselves. We have got our own expectations and pressures. I think that is harder to face.”



But are the pressures too much for this new group of All Blacks? Smith wasn’t accepting that. “For 100 years, young New Zealand players have flourished under these pressures so nothing has changed. Players have traditionally come to the party or they haven’t.



“That is the process: we are finding out who has got it, who is going to be a long term player for the All Blacks and one or two have put up their hands. They are a great group, really approachable and I love coaching them. They are a group that wants to learn and that is what is important to us.”



Smith was asked whether he feared the South Africans had lost their sense of aura of the All Blacks. His reply might have surprised some. “I would be surprised if they were ever in fear of the All Blacks. They are Springboks, they have a great tradition. It’s only over the last 20 years that the balance of the games has tipped in the All Blacks’ favour. So it would surprise me if the Springboks have ever feared us.



“Whether there has been a change I don’t know. But there has been a change in the coaching style and their up-front nature has altered, yes. Whether that is one of the (Springbok coach’s) strategies to try and create an attitude that we are not as good as people think, I am not too sure.”



The All Blacks have studiously refused to get involved in the mind games instigated this week by ‘Boks coach Peter de Villiers. They’re wise to have done so, preferring to focus intently on their own preparations for Saturday. Whilst the South Africans have been out at a couple of big dinners this week, the New Zealanders have prepared quietly and retained their focus. It could pay dividends tomorrow afternoon.



Smith, of course, has been here before; he knows the deal. But he has warned his players the coaching staff can’t do it for them. “There are a lot of doubters around but we don’t doubt the team has got the heart to do it. But it is a big challenge. To take that intensity (of Auckland) off shore and put it on the track at Newlands will take some doing.



“We can’t do it for them. You can talk about what it’s going to be like and try and re-create situations at training but you can’t get into it. But we trust these boys and believe they are going to put it all on the park on Saturday. Whether that’s good enough to win or not we will see.”



In other words, the unknown factor looms. No-one in Cape Town this week has been certain about forecasts. Bets have been hedged, doubts aired. It could go either way depending upon a multiplicity of factors.



Perhaps it will only be at the height of the battle that we will see the true leaders emerge, witness the match deciding feats of key players. At times such as those, the greats tend to stand up and be counted. But which side has more of them? It remains an unknown factor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game