Patrick McKendry lists five things we want to see from Bledisloe Cup III on Saturday night.
1. Another close finish
The last All Blacks test - a 25-24 win over the Springboks in Cape Town eight days ago - was far more compelling than the walkover in Albany last month. The All Blacks might not have been at their best, but they didn't play badly. The difference was the Boks' mindset and application. They were a different side in terms of their defence and their work at the breakdown stressed the All Blacks at times. It was a classic, with the result in doubt until the final seconds, rivalling the All Blacks' come-from-behind 35-29 win over the Wallabies in Dunedin in August. Can Michael Cheika's men gain inspiration from that performance when they face the All Blacks in Brisbane on Saturday? Well, they haven't lost since.
2. Pack power
No Joe Moody, no Owen Franks, no problem for the All Blacks. Kane Hames, a 29-year-old late developer providing inspiration to ageing front rowers everywhere, was unlucky to concede a penalty in the first scrum of the test in Cape Town but from then on he and fellow front rowers Dane Coles and Nepo Laulala dominated the Boks' set piece. They didn't embarrass the home side like they did a week earlier against the Pumas in Buenos Aires, but it was a mightily impressive display. It was similar to the effort when the All Blacks were staring down the barrel against the Wallabies in Dunedin; the tight five effectively kept Steve Hansen's men in the game.
3. Rieko Ioane
More please, Rieko. Hansen described the All Blacks left wing as a crowd favourite after the All Blacks put more than 50 points on the Boks at Albany, and here he was again, although most of the cheering was coming from New Zealand. Scored a try from 80m when capitalising on a Boks error in the second half and should have had one in the first 40 minutes when he did the hard work to get to the line but lost the ball in the act of scoring. Immense power, pace and balance even when running at top speed makes the 20-year-old Blues player one of the most exciting in world rugby.
4. Damian McKenzie's feet
All of which is not to diminish the talents of fullback McKenzie, who probably has the quickest feet in the game and who is impressing more by the week. Not many could have scored his try against the Boks in Cape Town when he went on a gliding run (following good work from the promising David Havili) between two defenders. Already hugely popular among rugby followers in Europe (and elsewhere of course) due to his ability and size (only 81kg), the McKenzie legend is growing.
5. Less of the Sonny Bill hating
Sonny Bill Williams made 23 tackles against the Boks. Sam Whitelock did too. The next best in the test was 15 from Sam Cane. Williams also dropped the ball twice (once in a promising position), and was penalised twice for holding on to the ball when tackled (the irrepressible Malcolm Marx doing the damage for the Boks). Clearly, Williams defended very well and didn't quite fire on attack, yet the criticism coming his way since has been constant, with assistant coach Ian Foster defending his No12. Williams will always polarize opinions, but this latest deluge really does seem over the top.