ALL Blacks coach Steven Hansen says accuracy in execution will be critical against a Springboks side who have added an expansive edge to their traditional physical style.
The Rugby Championship’s two dominant teams meet in Auckland on Saturday, with both having won their first three matches.
But South Africa’s second bonus point of the tournament, from their 38-12 four-try-to-nil thumping of Australia in Brisbane on Saturday night, gives them a one-point advantage at the top of the table.
Hansen was impressed by the Springboks’ performance in their biggest victory over the Wallabies on Australian soil, describing them as “a pretty balanced side”.
“I think they’ve been good all season,” he said.
“They’re trying to play some rugby as well as keeping their physicality. They’ve sped up their game. They’re using their backs a lot more.”
Hansen said that was reflected in the bonus points they had gained so far.
He said the Eden Park Test would be a step up for the All Blacks, but also for the Springboks.
“Our execution has to be spot on, because it’s the two best sides in the world playing,” he said.
“Whoever executes the best on the day will get the chocolates.”
The All Blacks go in on the back of a 28-13 win against Argentina in Hamilton, where a persistent drizzle produced plenty of errors.
Hansen said there was an unusually high combined tally of 41 turnovers from the two sides.
The lesson for the All Blacks was to adapt better to the conditions, with Hansen citing, as an example, their wet-weather performance in Christchurch in June when they produced a 30-0 shut-out of France.
“We like to run the ball, we like to play with the ball in hand, but when you get those weather conditions, we just have to be a bit smarter because it’s all about risk and reward,” he said.
“I thought we were comfortably in control of the game right throughout. We probably allowed ourselves to be under too much pressure by trying to play too much rugby.”