Johannesburg — All Black captain Sam Cane expects another “hostile” reception at Emirates Airline Park when they face the world champion Springboks in the second round of the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
The All Blacks were overwhelmed at Nelspruit last weekend, and Cane knows the challenge will only increase at the 1995 Cup final venue.
“It’s a hostile environment, but we quite like playing in places like this because it tests you,” Cane told the media on Tuesday. “We are a bit higher (in altitude than last weekend) and the air is a bit thinner, so it is a massive challenge.”
If the All Blacks’ task of turning around a horrendous season was not hard enough, they are now also sweating over the fitness of star wing Will Jordan.
The 24-year-old, who has dotted down 19 times in 16 Tests, missed training yesterday due to illness.
It was the All Blacks’ first outdoor training session since last Saturday’s 26-10 defeat.
Although Cane believed Jordan only had a “mild stomach issue” and should be ready to take his place, it was yet another setback for the Kiwis, who are already worrying over fullback Jordie Barrett’s injured ankle and his brother Beauden’s neck.
Both took full part in Tuesday’s training session though, with Jordie only sitting out the extended kickers session.
Cane was just relieved that Beauden was back on his feet after being upended by Bok wing Kurt-Lee Arendse’s mid-air tackle. The South African newcomer has since been suspended for four weeks.
Cane, under immense pressure to lead the New Zealand response to a horror run of results and performances, said even he had been surprised by how well both bounced back, especially Beauden, after the reckless challenge from Arendse.
“I think I’m speaking on behalf of everyone … it was pretty frightening to see,” he said. “It was nasty – almost as bad as it gets. I don’t know what Beaudy is made of. He’s a rubber-band man. I know it gave him a bit of a fright as well, and Jordie was having a bit of trouble with the ankle, but they’re tough boys,” he said.
Cane also claimed the All Blacks have had some “brutally honest” team meetings after their third successive defeat – two of those were at home against Ireland – and believe they are better prepared for another Bok onslaught.
“We had a good look at opportunities missed and where we can get better,” Cane said. “We have been brutally honest with each other and it’s never personal, it’s about learning off an individual’s error so the team can get better as well.
“We all know as a group that you can’t just focus on the outcome (result), it is always the process and small steps that go into it that gives you the outcome you are after.
“They (the Boks) know their game really well and they execute it extremely well. There were 15 odd contestable kicks and we only took five of them. They gave us a great test at the breakdown.
“We expect them to roll out the same stuff, but we have seen some things on the tape where we can be better. We are desperate to improve,” Cane said.
Embattled All Black coach Ian Foster is set to name his team on Thursday.
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