James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Sides evenly matched for big battle - Kronfeld

Boks hope to break 76-year Eden Park drought and All Blacks' unbeaten run

Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore warm up at the All Blacks' team practice at Trusts Stadium in West Auckland last night. Photo / Greg Bowker
Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore warm up at the All Blacks' team practice at Trusts Stadium in West Auckland last night. Photo / Greg Bowker

The All Blacks need to chance their arm while playing a fast and error-free game to beat the Springboks, say former greats.

The two unbeaten teams in the Rugby Championship meet tomorrow at Eden Park in a match that is likely to decide the outcome of the competition.

For the home side it's shaping up as the sternest test they have faced in defending a 30-match unbeaten record in Auckland that stretches back to 1994.

An ominous-looking South Africa will be keen to create history as the first Springbok side to win at Eden Park since 1937.

The All Blacks' smaller forward pack gives away 30kg to the Springboks, who weigh a total of 924kg, but former New Zealand flanker Josh Kronfeld said this could work to the home side's advantage.

"I don't reckon we tussle with them but I think we look at having quick rucks.

We have the perfect halfback for it so if the ball is moved before the ruck is even finished we can outpace them," he said.

"If the counterattack is on the money and we outpace them just in terms of speed of turnover at the ruck and maul area we should sneak through with the win."

The last time the two teams met at Eden Park in 2010 the All Blacks demolished the Springboks 32-12.

But Kronfeld believes player-on-player there is little difference between the two teams this time around with the sides matched both in attack and defence.

"We have to put them on the ground before anything gets going because if they get a roll on they can be super-dangerous. That will be tough though, because the South Africans will want to make sure their forwards are involved and keep it that way before getting their backs involved."

Former All Black captain Buck Shelford said that while the Springboks played well last week winning 38-12 in Brisbane, the Wallabies were still an underdeveloped side and made them "look better than they are".

"The Boks have improved and are playing a more expansive game, they are strong at the back and up front and like New Zealand are good at building pressure," he said.

"But I think we use the ball a bit better than the South Africans, while they have gone back to what they know, which is their forward pack."

Shelford believed the wet weather forecast for the match would be a factor and the All Blacks would come under intense pressure during scrum time and at the breakdown.

"We will need to get dominance in those areas.

"There will be a lot of kicking in the game but it will be the team that makes the least errors and doesn't give penalties away that will win."

Auckland Rugby marketing manager Grant McKenzie said there were fewer than 500 tickets left for the match last night.

The crowd is likely to be a 48,500-strong sellout.

The All Blacks are still strong favourites at the TAB, paying $1.35 for the win, although the TAB reported plenty of support for a South Africa win.

- NZ Herald

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