September 13, 2017
Clash of the Giants All Blacks v Springboks
The world awaits this year’s Round 4 Rugby Championship in Albany as the world number 1 All Blacks host a rejuvenated Springboks. The home side has a three point lead in the Championship after winning its first three matches but the Springboks know a victory could see them leap-frog the All Blacks into top spot after four rounds.
All Black second row Sam Whitelock said facing the Springboks is tough on the body but he loves the competition.
"It’s one of those awesome Test matches you hope to be part of. If you go back through history between South Africa and New Zealand, those are the games people talk about 10 or 20 or 30 years later. No doubt this one will be the same," Whitelock told SARugbyMag.
"The beauty I love about it, is they’re big, strong guys and there is always that physical battle. They really pride themselves on it, so you always know it’s going to be physical.
"They’re really confident and when a team is confident things normally come off for them. In their first couple of games, they played typical South African rugby; their big, strong guys were carrying hard and they were using their skills when releasing the ball to go wide."
Whitelock also praised his opposing second-row Eben Etzebeth on the growth and maturity he has shown as Bok captain.
"He’s developed massively from when he first arrived. He was similar to myself and made the starting lineup when he was quite young," he said.
"It’s always a steep learning curve for any player but he has really grown and evolved in that leadership role, and seems to be really enjoying it. When you’re enjoying your rugby, normally you’re playing great."
Meanwhile Springbok wing Courtnall Skosan is excited at the prospect of taking on the All Blacks back three in this week's Rugby Championship clash.
Skosan is one of many Lions players that has come on leaps and bounds in the last two seasons, as they reached consectutive Super Rugby finals.
“The All Blacks have special players in every position in the whole squad so whoever plays‚ they'll be having quality players on the field‚" Skosan told TimesLive as he looked ahead to the game.
"It's a case of us having to focus on three guys instead of one guy and it's going to be a team effort.
"If we can cover all our bases as a team‚ hopefully we can get the result on the weekend.”
The Boks face the All Blacks at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Saturday.
Skosan said he isn't too concerend about the location‚ even though North Harbour has a sizeable South African immigrant population.
“It's another game at the end of the day and it's 80 minutes that we need to see off," he added.
"Obviously when you're at home you have the advantage.
"We're still playing an away game and we're still playing the New Zealand side in New Zealand.
"It's going to be a tough challenge for us to get the result.
"We need to do what we need to do on the weekend."
Springbok flanker Jaco Kriel has been ruled out of this weekend's Test against the All Blacks because of a shoulder injury.
South African Rugby tweeted from its official account that the 28-year-old will return home ahead of the match at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday. A replacement will not be brought into the squad.