Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has warned New Zealand not to underestimate the Springboks ahead of the historic 100th test between the sides on Saturday.
The world champion Springboks have struggled of late, falling to two straight losses against the Wallabies and were passed by the All Blacks at the top of the World Rugby rankings.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking, Hansen said he believes South Africa will still be dangerous on Saturday night, despite their recent decline in form.
"They'll be good – don't underestimate them," Hansen said. "They haven't been playing well but it always seems to be hanging over teams after World Cups. Very few sides have really kicked on after winning one and been good in the next cycle.
"They're not playing in the Super Rugby so they've sort of been isolated and just gone back to just playing in their own wee world. And Covid has forced that I guess and I think they want to go up north with their club rugby. I think that's changed their style of game even more dramatically.
"They're probably not as fit as they have been and they're probably not as used to the pace of the game that Australia and New Zealand particularly play at. That's a disadvantage, but they've still got monsters for forwards and they've still got a great kicking game. You've still got to prevent that. And if you don't catch the high ball that they kick at you then you're in trouble."
Hansen added that he believes his former side will have it tough, but he still expects them to be too good for South Africa in the end.
"I think the All Blacks will have a tough night but I think they're playing that well that they'll come out on top."
Hansen, who is in Japan working as a coaching consultant with Toyota Verblitz in the Japanese Top League, praised the All Blacks' performances this year, saying they're playing as good as he's ever seen them play.
"They've been outstanding. The type of rugby that they're playing has been a godsend to the game at the moment because the Lions series was very disappointing from a rugby point of view – really dour and people want tries being scored and get excited about it.
"The All Blacks are very good at doing that and right at this moment I think they've been playing as good as I've seen them play."
The World Cup winning coach also offered some advice for the current playing group in Australia, who are in the middle of a long tour away from home.
After the conclusion of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks will head for a Northern Hemisphere tour for tests against the USA, Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
"Have good routines, make sure that you use the older guys in the team to share how you're feeling and be vulnerable," Hansen said. "It's not just the young guys. The older guys have a different issue because a lot of them are married and have children. So it's about making connections with home.
"The All Blacks have always been very good at taking home on the road. As far as I'm concerned I think we've done it pretty well. But you can't change the fact that this is different because it's even longer on the road than they've probably done.
"It's about good structures, keeping the connections with the people you love … but being vulnerable enough to talk to your teammates and your coaches and management about how you're feeling so you don't fall into your mental hole. I think that's important."
Hansen said he's just about to come out of isolation in Japan after travelling to rejoin the Verblitz for the upcoming season in January next year.
The All Blacks take on the Springboks in their first match since the 2019 Rugby World Cup at 7.05pm on Saturday in Townsville.