FORMER New Zealand coach John Mitchell yesterday predicted that the Springboks would "come to speed" in tomorrow's Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks in Wellington despite their 32-12 hammering in last week's Test in Auckland.
He also urged both teams to erase any links they may have made between the Tri-Nations and next year's Rugby World Cup, saying the international showpiece was too far away for these results to have any significance in their preparations.
The All Blacks bullied the Boks in scrums and at the contact points last week, which forced the visitors on to the back foot and shut them out of the game.
The Boks will be desperate to avoid a similar situation this week, as it is their last chance to extend their win record in New Zealand to three seasons after victories in Hamilton and Dunedin in each of the last two seasons .
The clash will also offer the Boks the opportunity to end their losing streak at the Westpac stadium, as they have lost all three previous encounters against the All Blacks at the ground, dating back to 2002.
This, however, will require a solid all-round performance by the visitors, with their pack laying a better foundation upfront and halfbacks Ricky Januarie and Morné Steyn dictating play much more effectively.
Fortunately for Springbok captain John Smit and his team, New Zealand will be without the services of powerful wing Joe Rokocoko, who has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, star scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan will start on the bench as a precautionary measure after recovering from an abdominal strain suffered last week.
Exciting wing Rene Ranger has been named as a replacement for Rokocoko, with Piri Weepu starting in place of Cowan in the only changes made to Graham Henry's starting team from last week.
Responding to questions about the clash yesterday, Mitchell, who is coaching the Lions Currie Cup team, said: "A confident All Blacks side after a performance against a hurt Springbok team makes for an interesting equation.
"I think the Boks will come to speed of the game. After the All Blacks did well to get a lot of quick ball through their effective mid-wide attack in the first Test, the Boks will look to be more effective in their set pieces, the tackle and the breakdown. They will also look to build pressure their own way, probably through an effective kicking game and certainly building phases. But it is going to be interesting to see if the All Blacks can repeat the very physical effort they produced over their own ball in the first match."
With several links being made in rugby circles between the Tri-Nations and the significance it would have for next year's World Cup, Mitchell said although it was important to learn lessons from the series, the World Cup would be an entirely different competition - a sentiment shared by New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith last week.
"Naturally I've been through it all this time of the year when everyone talks about the performance determining how you will finish in the World Cup," said Mitchell. "But it is a disaster and you can't come back from it. The World Cup is a long way away, so if you are going to get a lesson in football you might as well get it early because the Springboks have shown in the past that they learn quickly."
Back in Wellington, Bok vice- captain Victor Matfield was hopeful his team could play to their potential this week after letting themselves down in the opening game .
"They did a lot of things right, but I must say, we also weren't there 100%. We were probably about 97% and we know in these games if you're one or two percent off your game, you will get smashed. And that's what happened. Hopefully we can be there 100% this week and then it will be a better Test match."
With the All Blacks fully aware of the pride in the Springbok team, Henry admitted his side were bracing themselves for a much tougher battle than last week.
"We have stuck with the majority of players who played so well in last week's win at Eden Park and they are ready for what will be another major contest," said Henry.
"The players know that they will face a different, more physical Springbok side." with Reuters
Springboks: Zane Kirchner; Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Ricky Januarie; Pierre Spies, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger; Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw; CJ van der Linde, John Smit (capt), Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Andries Bekker, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Gio Aplon.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger; Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino; Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Replacemnets: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Jimmy Cowan, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg.