Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Savea out to break try-drought against Boks

All Blacks wing Julian Savea, often compared with the late, great, Jonah Lomu due to his size and try-scoring ability, shares another similarity with the man who filled the No11 jersey with such power and explosiveness - he has never scored against South Africa.

Lomu played 12 tests against the Springboks but failed to get across the line in any of them. His first test against the All Blacks' old foe was the final of the 1995 World Cup at Ellis Park, when, after announcing himself on the world stage with four tries in an extraordinary performance against England in his team's semifinal victory, Lomu - along with every other player on the park - was kept try-less in the extra-time defeat.

And so it continued in his 11 other meetings against the Boks, who, for whatever reason, managed to keep the big man out. In the end it seemed to become a matter of real pride for the men in green and gold that they could do what many other nations couldn't. Lomu, who died last year aged 40, scored 37 tries in 63 tests.

Likewise, Savea has so far been kept try-less in six tests against the Springboks, quite a statistic considering he has scored a remarkable 42 tries in 46 tests, including a hat-trick on debut against Ireland in 2012, and consecutive hat-tricks at the last World Cup against Namibia and France.

Given Savea's recent form - he has scored a try in each of his last three tests, and was particularly dangerous against Argentina in Hamilton last weekend - that drought may come to an end at AMI Stadium on Saturday.

The South Africans are in the midst of a rebuilding programme after pushing the All Blacks so close in the semifinal of the last World Cup and losing their coach and the majority of their squad.

In losing to Pumas and Wallabies over the past fortnight, their attack has yet to click under new coach Allister Coetzee, but there is little doubt that their defence will contain some starch as they look to bounce back.

Savea, 26, who will start alongside younger brother Ardie for the first time in an All Blacks jersey on Saturday, said the Boks brought a different challenge to many other nations.

"It's generally the way the game goes, the forwards sort of take over," he said. "The physical stuff takes over rather than [the ball going] out wide.

"I've just got to keep doing my role, I can't get too frustrated about that. Hopefully it goes all right."

Ardie says otherwise, but Julian doesn't keep a tally of his tries - one of the more remarkable strike rates in world rugby, and a total which is putting him ever closer to Doug Howlett's record of 49 tries in 62 tests.

Only Christian Cullen (46 tries in 58 tests), Joe Rokocoko (46 in 68) and Jeff Wilson (44 in 60), have scored more for the All Blacks.

"No. Some boys will probably challenge that, but I definitely don't [keep score]," he said.
What he does do is remember the battles of old between the All Blacks and Boks.

"I was always nervous as a fan. The fact that we have got the history makes it really tough. We know that these guys will always get up against us, and that the physical battle is always there and always a challenge.

"I feel that every team gets up for New Zealand, which is good because we always want to play a team at their best so that we can perform at our best too."

Savea has had his form issues this year, but his response against the Pumas last weekend suggests he is back to his best. Certainly, he is enjoying himself alongside his in-form back-three partners Ben Smith and Israel Dagg.

"When you've got the forward pack going really well and the whole team performing their skills under pressure well, it makes your job a little bit easier and gives you the confidence to do what you can do.

"It's about building and enjoying footy, and I think I'm loving it more than I ever have."

- NZ Herald

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