12 Jul 2008

Teams gear up for Tri-Nations after testy week

5:15 pm on 12 July 2008

A week-long barrage of accusations of cheap shots, illegal scrummaging and favouritism will be put to rest on Saturday when the All Blacks and South Africa meet in Dunedin for their second Tri-Nations match.

Rugby World Cup champions South Africa, humbled by the All Blacks 19-8 last Saturday in Wellington, spent most of the week complaining about the All Blacks' scrummaging techniques and of supposed favouritism shown to them by referees.

The All Blacks in turn complained of several off-the-ball incidents from the match at Westpac Stadium - many of which were aimed at first five-eighth Daniel Carter, who was on the end of at least three late tackles from his opposite, Butch James.

The match at Carisbrook on Saturday night coincides with 100 years of test rugby at the historic ground, and the 30,000-seat stadium sold out weeks ago.

People and businesses are adorned in black and white throughout Dunedin's central city in support of the All Blacks.

South Africa will be hoping to notch up their first win at Carisbrook in 21 years.

The All Blacks' pack are without inspirational leader Richie McCaw, however, they more than match the Springboks' physical approach, though they will miss the no-nonsense presence of the suspended Brad Thorn.

The lock was banned for a week for picking up South African captain John Smit and unceremoniously dumping him on his back after an incident from a ruck, where Smit had appeared to have dropped his forearm and elbow on to the back of Thorn's head.

Lock Anthony Boric will make his first start alongside veteran Ali Williams, while tighthead prop John Afoa has returned from a knee injury, with both likely to be targeted by a fired-up Springboks pack.

Carter will again aim to be a key player with his tactical kicking behind the rushing South African defensive line a decisive factor last week.

South Africa coach Peter De Villiers recognised his team's kicking game, which is increasingly important to keep the ball alive under the Experimental Law Variations, was less than satisfactory and he made changes to his back three.

Veteran fullback Percy Montgomery replaces Conrad Jantjes, while JP Pietersen replaces the inexperienced Odwa Ndungane on the right wing, reuniting the pair with Bryan Habana.

The match at Carisbrook kicks off at 7.35pm (NZ time) on Saturday.


ALL BLACKS: Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Jerome Kaino, Rodney So'oialo (captain), Adam Thomson, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, John Afoa, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Kevin O'Neill, Sione Lauaki, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Leon MacDonald.

SOUTH AFRICA: Percy Montgomery, JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Ricky Januarie, Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield (captain), Bakkies Botha, CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp.

Reserves: Schalk Britz, Brian Mujati, Andries Bekker, Luke Watson, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Steyn, Conrad Jantjes.

REFEREE: Matt Goddard (Australia)