South Africa will be tough to beat despite poor form, says All Blacks skipper Read
After nearly a century of intense rivalry on the rugby field, the All Blacks are having nothing of suggestions the Springboks are ripe for a rout in their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday, according to captain Kieran Read.
The South Africans are in a transitional phase under new coach Allister Coetzee with several players out injured while only five of the team starting on Saturday faced the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final last year.
Steve Hansen's side won that game 20-18 before they clinched their third World Cup title a week later and since then both teams have lost several veterans as they look towards the 2019 tournament in Japan.
Coetzee's team, however, have struggled and been subject to intense criticism from fans and media, particularly after they looked muddled in their 23-17 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane, a week after they lost 26-24 to the Pumas in Salta.
Read was dismissive of the criticism, knowing that while the All Blacks have fashioned an almost 80 percent success rate in their 544 test matches since 1903, they have only a 59.89 percent winning rate against the Springboks, who would lift for the clash on Saturday.
"We know how tough the Springboks team is," Read told reporters in Christchurch on Friday. "Even a wounded team that has come off a couple of losses, they will be doing everything they can to turn up so it's a big test for us."
Read's side were pushed hard by a belligerent Argentina last week before they kicked away in the final 30 minutes and ran up a 57-22 victory and the number eight said they would need to rectify their start if they wanted to beat the Springboks.
"We don't really want to be focusing too much on them but if we can get a start in terms of our physicality and intensity in our own play, the scoreboard does funny things to teams," he said.
"If we can get a lead obviously that helps, but we know it will take a big effort."
All Blacks coach Hansen added he felt his side would need to be on their game from the opening whistle because it was only a matter of time before Coetzee's plans would bed in.
"When you come to mould your team, sometimes it takes a little while to get them to where you need them to be because you are changing the style," Hansen said.
"They will get it right one of these days soon and, when they do, look out."