New Zealand are bracing themselves for a physical onslaught when they meet the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The All Blacks are battle hardened after physical Tests against France, Italy and Australia, while the Springboks come off a brutal series against the British & Lions.
South Africa-New Zealand Tests are always physical, but Isaac Ross believes the Springboks will want to make a strong statement in what they are viewing as the first of a two-Test series.
‘We were a bit surprised by the physicality against Australia, it was another level up from our games against the French and Italy,’ Ross said.
‘And that’s a real trait of the Boks, they love to be physical and try to bully you, so we’re going to have to front up even more this weekend.’
Ross’ view was supported by Ma’a Nonu and Keven Mealamu.
‘South Africa will be physical, they always are at home. They played very well against the British and Irish Lions, especially in the first two games. They were physical at the breakdowns, had a good defensive line and they showed they can kick pretty accurately with Morne Steyn there at flyhalf,’ Nonu said.
Mealamu added: ‘We’ve never had an easy game against South Africa, I love coming here, there’s nothing better than the crowds giving you a go and the huge stadiums. Games against South Africa are always very physical and very fast.’
The Blacks struggled at lineout time against Australia on Saturday, losing three of their first four feeds, all of which culminated in points for the Wallabies.
They fully expect the Springboks, led by the world’s pre-eminent lineout lock Victor Matfield, to target them at the set phase.
‘It’s definitely going to be a difficult challenge against the Springbok lineout with Victor Matfield running the ship. Our lineouts didn’t really go to plan, but this week we will keep plugging away and working on our strengths,’ Ross said.