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New All Blacks set to 'face the wrath' of Springboks physicality

By Tom Vinicombe

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Seven All Blacks will face the Springboks for the first time on Saturday night, in what will be the 100th test between the two rival nations.

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Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Will Jordan, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber and Quinn Tupaea will all enter Saturday’s game without any first-hand experience of what it’s like to face off with the world champions.

Weber and Jacobson made their test debuts prior to 2020 but while they were a part of squads that went to battle with the Springboks, they themselves were never lucky enough to be selected for the encounters.

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With Saturday’s clash marking the first time the two sides will square off since the 2019 World Cup, due to South Africa withdrawing from all test rugby last year, the All Blacks new to the test scene since that World Cup will also unsurprisingly be earning their first caps against the Springboks.

For some, like Jordan, Blackadder and Tupaea, who also have somewhat limited exposure to Super Rugby, playing South African opposition in any shape will come as a relatively new experience.

That will be the standard moving forward, however, with South African sides no longer competing in the revamped Super Rugby Pacific competition, instead committing to the United Rugby Championship in Europe.

All Blacks captain Ardie Savea says that means younger players will face a tough trial by fire – but that’s simply the new normal.

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“Pretty much, they’re just going to experience it when they come to test level, it’s just the way it is,” Savea said following the side’s captain’s run on Friday.

“Being able to play Super against them, you kind of got a feel on how the players play, their tendencies, and it kind of prepped you a little bit, in terms of what to expect. I guess that’s not happening [so to be] short and sharp, the news guys that haven’t done that, they’ve just got to face the wrath, face the force this week.”

That presents a new challenge for top dog Ian Foster and his fellow coaches, who have had to prepare one-third of the match-day squad for their first encounter with one of the most physical, confrontational and fearless teams in world sport.

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“It’s more about understanding the style that we’re going to come up against and it’s one of the beauties of the international game, is that you play teams with very, very different styles,” Foster said after naming his side.

“If you look at the last 18 months, we’ve predominantly played a couple of teams with a very similar style so it’s actually nice now to get into a different one and clearly it’ll be a style that’ll probably take us a little while to adapt to but we hope that we adapt very, very quick.”

Speaking to the media on Thursday, 23-year-old Will Jordan – whose sole experience playing South African sides totals a 30-minute cameo for the Crusaders against the Sharks in 2019 – suggested that the All Blacks have a reasonable idea of what to expect from the Springboks, regardless of some of the player’s limited exposure to the world champions.

“We’re expecting a hugely physical battle and just a real tough test match,” he said.

“It’s probably no secret we’re going to get a few high balls. That’s a huge part of the South Africans’ DNA, with the ability to kick and apply pressure that way.”

The All Blacks kick off their 100th test with the Springboks at 5:05pm AEST on Saturday evening from Townsville in Queensland, Australia.

Catch up on the latest discussion with the Aotearoa Rugby Pod:

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New All Blacks set to 'face the wrath' of Springboks physicality

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