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Fitzpatrick: Boks the biggest test - Sean Fitzpatrick has identified the Springboks as the All Blacks’ toughest opponent at the World Cup.
If results go as expected, the two sides should meet in the semi-final in Auckland.
The iconic former All Blacks captain said: ‘Probably the No 1 for us are the South Africans, I think they’ve got a huge amount of depth and experience and they’ve won two World Cups. And we play them, with everything going to plan, semifinal time in Auckland.
“They’re just starting to perform well, Super Rugby has shown that a number of their key Springboks are now starting to find some form.’
He was, however, bullish about the Blacks’ chances at the tournament they last won in 1987.
‘I think they’re as good as they have been in [coach] Graham Henry’s tenure, they’ve got a good blend of youth, they’ve got unbelievable experience, so all in all, they’re in a good space,’ he said. ‘The position we’re in now, I think the All Blacks can win the World Cup.’
He added the biggest challenge would be managing the massive expectation of the nation.
‘Playing for the All Blacks my biggest fear was that I was going to fail, that I was going to let down the nation, so harnessing that fear of failure is key and I think that this team is mature enough to be able to handle that pressure,” Fitzpatrick said.
‘But it’s great. All New Zealanders expect the All Blacks to win. In terms of pressure it’s never been any greater or any less really. So playing in NZ is wonderful. I played there in ’87 when we had the World Cup and the momentum, the wave of support we got from the four million shareholders was phenomenal.
‘I can remember we played Italy at Eden Park and then once that game was out of the way and NZ sort of realised the World Cup was under way, the momentum, that surge of support was phenomenal, this time will be no different.”