Ma’a Nonu is acutely aware of the magnitude of the task he faces in trying to dominate the midfield clash against Wyand Olivier.
Nonu has just returned from a lengthy injury lay-off, but New Zealand coach Graham Henry, a strong supporter of the Hurricanes man, felt he was ready to front the Springboks in Auckland on Saturday.
Olivier and Nonu pair had an almighty tussle at Loftus in the Super 14, with neither able to get the upper hand in the Bulls’ 19-18 victory.
Olivier’s form improved as the tournament progressed, while Nonu’s waned. The former has earned a starting berth ahead of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh on the back of the quality of those performances, and Nonu admitted to being wary of the challenge.
‘Wynand Olivier was the player of the Super 14 really. He’s a strong ball-runner and good defensively,’ Nonu said. ‘It’s always hard against the Springbok midfield, they’re big fellows and you can’t really run through them.
‘It doesn’t make a lot of difference playing against Olivier rather than De Villiers, they’re both top-class midfielders. All their centres are capable of a great game.’
Nonu will be determined to impress given the faith placed in him. His form was ordinary in the 2009 Tri-Nations, and with the emergence of Benson Stanley as a solid option, Nonu will have to ensure he hits the ground running.
‘My form in Africa wasn’t that flash and there is a bit of extra nerves because I’ve only played club rugby since then. It’s the first time I’ll be going straight from club rugby to play for the All Blacks, but it’s all about preparation at the end of the day,’ Nonu said.