New Zealand will look for their ninth consecutive win this season before they enjoy a two month sojourn ahead of the European Tour.
Victory against the Springboks in Rustenburg on Saturday will edge the All Blacks closer to the record for the longest winning streak in Tests (17). Graham Henry’s charges, who have changed many times for the various encounters due to his rotation policy, are currently standing on 15 wins on the trot.
This year has seen the All Blacks conquer Ireland in two Tests and Argentina. Besides winning the Vodacom Tri-Nations trophy in this year’s competition in just four matches, they have also successfully defended the Bledisloe Cup and won the Freedom Cup by beating South Africa twice.
Also included in that wonderful run is the Grand Slam win in the UK last year. In fact, the 2005 Tri-Nations Test at Newlands is their most recent defeat, where they went down 22-16.
If the New Zealanders manage to topple the Boks tomorrow, it will stand them in good stead to break the world record for the most consecutive games. The Boks got close in 1998, equalling the record with 17 wins, but failed in the all-important game against England at Twickenham.
“I think the physical fuel is okay,” assistant coach Wayne Smith said. “Always at this time of year, a couple of weeks away from home there tends to be mental lethargy.
“We’re hoping through a day off yesterday, having trainings that are short but intense, that we’ll get a burst of enthusiasm this weekend and the energy will be high.”
The bar should be raised significantly through the return of centre Aaron Mauger, as well as the selection of plenty of speedsters in the backline.
The visitors’ scrum will also be boosted by the return of Carl Hayman at tighthead prop. He resumes his old rivalry with South Africa’s Os du Randt.
Following the two month break from international duty, the All Blacks play England on 5 November, followed by two Tests against the French and another against Wales.