Sean Fitzpatrick 's Opinion

Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean Fitzpatrick: Dirt-trekkers add insult to 'injury'

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Zac Guildford for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Zac Guildford for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

Expect to see a very different Springboks side when these two teams meet in Port Elizabeth in three weeks.

Our victory over the under-strength South Africans in Wellington last night was extremely important for this All Blacks side, but for the Boks, their real test comes in their two home Tri Nations matches, which start against Australia in Durban on August 14 (NZ time).

They were awful for the second test in a row and they have just two games to get it right before the World Cup.

The Springboks have embarked on a different route to the World Cup than Graham Henry's All Blacks. Leaving a stack of players at home for the past two games, allegedly because they are injured, is not how I would lead a team into the biggest event on the rugby calendar.

It is inconceivable their big guns won't be rolled out back in South Africa. They have to use those games as their build-up.

Though it's disappointing for the fans who have spent money to see a B team, the Boks have their own strategy. They're focussing solely on the World Cup. It worked for them in 2007.

I just like the path the All Blacks are following in terms of selections. The Tri Nations tests are crucial for the development of this team.

It's nice to see players such as Wyatt Crockett, a reformed prop during Super rugby, in there. Likewise Adam Thomson.

Henry has made it quite clear he is ruthless. The Janes, Weepus and Nonus are classic examples of players who thrive in an All Black environment.

Henry threw some of them back into the ITM Cup, such as Cory Jane. It's a kick up the backside after some average play in Super rugby. He's told them to front up and now, in the Tri Nations, he's given them a real opportunity. How did Jane respond last night? Fantastic.

It seems the All Blacks are developing a game-plan based on controlling the ball. That will get its first major test next weekend, when we meet Australia at Eden Park.

But an even better test will be how we go in South Africa. Away from home against their top team, that is World Cup final pressure.

Whatever happens, over the next month we need to be put under severe pressure each game. It's what we need, in terms of what we will experience come World Cup time.

The most intriguing selection call next week might be at lock. We had two big guys in there last night, with Brad Thorn missing out. The lineout is an area where we've struggled. We are losing a bit of physicality to guarantee possession and, with the players selected, I don't think we lost a lot around the field.

- Herald on Sunday

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick remains one of the greatest rugby players to have graced the game and one of the All Blacks’ most celebrated captains. Throughout his stellar he played 128 matches from 1986 up until his retirement in 1998. His 11 years of captaincy were heralded as some of the most prolific in All Blacks history, including captaining the team to their first ever series win against the Springboks in South Africa in 1996 – a record achievement in its own right.

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