When it comes to crunch test rugby, there is little that New Zealand and South Africa do not know about each other’s game. But familiar foes or not, the All Blacks expect Saturday’s World Cup semi-final to go up a notch in skill and intensity.
Settling into their base in leafy Surrey after their clinical nine-try quarter-final rout of France in Cardiff, the world champions began to turn their attention to a Springboks side who they have beaten in 10 of their last 12 meetings.
The last match-up came three months ago in Johannesburg when the All Blacks, 20-17 adrift with six minutes left, needed a late Richie McCaw try to get them home.
South Africa had triumphed by two points in the same Ellis Park stadium a year ago and New Zealand forward Kieran Read said the All Blacks needed to be wary.
“Two teams who have got a lot of history over the last few years, played some pretty outstanding test matches so looking forward to a big challenge,” Read said.
“History has shown that prior form means nothing when it comes to a finals game. We’ve got to turn up and certainly take lessons from the games we’ve played against them in the past.
“We know their style. They know us. So it’s all part of turning up and playing well. They’ll be as confident as we are.”
The mantra coming out of the All Blacks camp was needing to raise their intensity again, analysing the physical challenge that the Springboks will pose but focus on honing their own game.
“We’ve had a good look at them. We’ll park that quite early then focus on ourselves,” flanker Jerome Kaino said.
“Regardless of what style they are going to bring we need to try and improve and focus on what we need to do.
“Their forward pack is a huge part of their game, it’s what gets them going. I think we’ll see much of the same but for them to intensify and lift their skill level.”
For centre Sonny Bill Williams, the 62-13 demolition of France, the biggest ever World Cup quarter-final victory, was New Zealand playing “live or die footie”.
“You saw a bit of an attitude shift from the boys,” he said, before sounding a cautionary tone.
“Even though they (South Africa) lost their first game to Japan, they have gone from strength to strength. They took a hit early in the competition so they know what it takes now.”