South Africa coach says Dunedin clash proves tourists' ability on road ahead of showdown at Eden Park for outright lead in the 2013 Championship.
It will forever be known to most New Zealanders as the test in which Richie McCaw was attacked by Springboks prop Dean Greyling, but for South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer it is a match his side should have won.
The All Blacks battled to a 21-11 victory under the roof in Dunedin last year, the Springboks surprising Steve Hansen's men with their intensity and determination despite a lack of form leading into the test.
Meyer said yesterday he believes the All Blacks had underestimated the Boks. His men had gone into the test with question marks over the effectiveness of first-five Morne Steyn and an ordinary run of form. The Boks prepared for the match in Auckland before travelling to Dunedin late in the week - all the while professing their belief they could win in New Zealand for the first time since 2009 to a sceptical local media.
In their previous four matches last year they had drawn 14-14 with England in Port Elizabeth, beaten Argentina comfortably 27-6 in Cape Town, drawn with the Pumas 16-16 in Mendoza and lost to Australia 26-19 in Perth.
However, their defiance soon shone through in the deep south. Bryan Habana scored a superb individual try but their three goalkickers Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and Johan Goosen kicked only two of nine attempts. Substitute Greyling's moment of madness when he launched himself at McCaw in a ruck and connected with his elbow, for which he was sinbinned, also cost them.
In the end it was replacement halfback Aaron Smith who was the hero for the All Blacks. Dropped to the reserves bench in favour of Piri Weepu due to a breach of protocol the previous weekend in Wellington, Smith sped through the Boks defence for the second-half try which broke the 8-8 deadlock.
"Last year, I really thought we could have won that game because the All Blacks probably underestimated us in a sense," Meyer said. "We drew against England, played really badly away, drew in Mendoza, lost against Australia ... on that day if our kicking was better maybe we would have had a chance.
"This is going to be tough because they know we're in form at the moment, they know we can win away from home, we've proven it, so they will be very well prepared. One thing I know about the All Blacks is that they always lift for a challenge, so we need to be much better than in previous weeks, we need to be really clinical and focused and bring a lot of energy."
Meyer called McCaw's absence for this test in Auckland due to a knee injury a "big blow" for the All Blacks, but added: "One of the things I know about New Zealand ... is that they have probably the best opensides going around. He [Sam Cane] is a quality player.
"They've won a lot of games without Richie as well so they won't change their game plan. We know what to expect. We think the breakdown will be a war as it usually is, especially away from home and especially in NZ."
Meyer called the test for the lead of the Rugby Championship the "ultimate challenge, and tougher than we've ever had before".
"We're totally underdogs but we like that tag. We're in a win-win situation and we can't wait." APNZ