Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Pitch perfect for hot pace

The average number of test points scored at Forsyth Barr Stadium is 53. Photo / Getty Images
The average number of test points scored at Forsyth Barr Stadium is 53. Photo / Getty Images

The All Blacks like to play an up-tempo game but don't always have the conditions to press, harry and generally send their opponents way out of their comfort zone.

Next Saturday, they will.

The beauty of the Dunedin glasshouse is that weather never plays a part. Providing the pitch is up to standard, and it has been since the stadium came into operation during the 2011 World Cup, conditions are always perfect.

It has led to some classic matches, the most recent the 32-30 heart-stopper between the Highlanders and Crusaders which went the visitors' way, the result in doubt until after the final siren.

Super Rugby teams seem to shed their inhibitions under the roof — the Crusaders entered into the spirit by ditching their conservative game plan — and the same applies to test matches, where defence traditionally rules.

The average number of test points scored at Forsyth Barr Stadium is 53.

The All Blacks have played two tests there — against South Africa in 2012 when they won 21-11 in a match notable for Dean Greyling's attack on Richie McCaw, and against Australia last year, a thrilling Bledisloe Cup encounter won 41-33 by Steve Hansen's men.

For Aaron Smith, the All Blacks and Highlanders halfback, the guaranteed dry track is likely a godsend. If the All Blacks like to feel the burn, he is their firestarter.

And Smith said it was always possible to play at a higher speed.

"It's a place where we should be aiming," he said. "It's not always achievable. Certain conditions can help that — if it's a good, dry pitch.

"We always try to play at a high tempo and a lot of that comes down to the ball we're getting — the small things, the set piece, the first few phases.

"For me, I guess I have the simple job. I pretty much run as fast as I can to everything. It's sort of that controlled fury, as I like to call it. Be as fast as I can but still be in sync and know where everyone is. That's a big part of our game."

- APNZ

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