'Fireworks' expected in Cake Tin contest
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick predicted ‘fireworks’ when they face South Africa in Wellington this Saturday.
The encounter – taking place at the stadium colloquially known as The Cake Tin – will see the Southern Hemisphere rivals both seek a
mental edge ahead of the World Cup.
The Rugby Championship clash is a dress rehearsal for the global showpiece in Japan, where New Zealand and South Africa will face each other in their opening Pool B match on September 21.
Adding further spice to this weekend’s fixture, the Springboks upset the world champions 36-34 a year ago when they last played in the New Zealand capital.
Retallick noted that New Zealand and South Africa both rested key players for their victories over Argentina and Australia respectively last weekend, with the Wellington showdown in mind.
“I think it’s going to be a fiery one,” Retallick said.
“There’s going to be some fresh bodies, so no doubt there’s going to be plenty of energy,” he added.
“They won here last time in Wellington and obviously we want to be winning every time, so I guess it’ll be a big one. Wait and see.”
Assistant coach Ian Foster confirmed the All Blacks were fired up as they prepare to chase their third straight World Cup and fourth overall.
“It’s on everyone’s mind, you can’t deny that,” Foster said.
“That brings out a real hunger, particularly in your top athletes who have been eyeing the prize for a long, long time.
“There’s no doubt there’s an edge in the group.”
Hulking South African hooker Malcolm Marx said the Springboks would not be taking a backward step in Wellington.
He said last year’s victory was pivotal in rebuilding a side that had slipped to seventh in the world rankings and endured a 57-0 mauling in their previous appearance in New Zealand.
“It was important for SA rugby to be honest,” Marx said.
“It built a lot more confidence in South African rugby,” he added.
Marx said another win in Wellington could give the Springboks a similar boost ahead of the World Cup, but it was a feat easier said than done.
“I wouldn’t say we’re underdogs, we’re focusing on ourselves and where we can improve, not on them,” he said.
“I think it might bring a bit of momentum, obviously, but we have to focus on (the match) first.”