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Nothing is impossible for these Boks

Fri, 13 Sep 2013 09:17
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Top spot on rankings at stake
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The Springboks are bristling with confidence that they can break open fortress Eden Park when they face the All Blacks on Saturday in a top-of-table Rugby Championship clash.

South African team officials and players repeatedly spoke this week of taking on New Zealand as being "the ultimate challenge", a theme that re-emerged during Bok skipper Jean de Villiers' weekly captaincy media briefing on Friday.

The All Blacks' incredible home record is there to be broken, De Villiers said as he rated his side's preparation for the Test between the world's top two sides as their "best ever".

History is stacked against the South Africans, with the All Blacks on a 30-match winning streak at Eden Park, a venue where the Springboks last won 76 years ago - when the great 1937 side took the deciding third Test 17-6 (when a try was still worth three points).

The All Blacks also haven't lost at Eden Park since they went down to France in 1994.

Their unbeaten run of 31 Tests there started with an 18-all draw against South Africa in 1994 and continued with 30 consecutive victories.

The All Blacks have not lost anywhere in New Zealand since 2009, when the Springboks beat them 32-29 in Hamilton, and that result, said de Villiers, has proved a huge motivating factor.

"It just shows nothing is impossible," the Bok skipper said.

"It's first of all a massive challenge, but secondly one that we can really look forward to."

The Bok skipper said you could see the whole week that the All Blacks are pretty keen for this game.

"Everyone is excited about it and looking forward to the game," he said, adding: "Not even thinking bout the result, just looking at the magnitude of the game and the excitement around it.

"As a rugby player and a sportsman, these are the games you want to play in and these are the game you look forward to."

Apart from first place on the Rugby Championship table, top spot on the IRB's world rankings is also at stake.

New Zealand have been the No.1 side in the rankings since 16 November 2009, but defeat against South Africa will see the two sides swap places.

The All Blacks, who have occupied top spot for 82 percent of the time since the rankings were introduced in October 2003, currently have a 2.7 rating point cushion over South Africa at the halfway stage of their Rugby Championship title defence.

However, if South Africa can win that deficit will be turned into at least a 0.44 point advantage.

If Heyneke Meyer's men can win by more than 15 points then South Africa would enjoy a cushion of just over two points.

While De Villiers said the game was "a massive challenge" for the Boks, he felt it is on the field where they are looking to make their biggest statement.

"We want to see constant improvement, maybe not so much on the scoreboard tomorrow [Saturday], but definitely in the way we want to play.

"We came off the field [against Australia] last week, on the scoreboard looking good," he said of a 38-12 win in Brisbane, adding: "But from an execution point of view we could have been better last week.

"That is what we will need tomorrow [Saturday].

"We won't get as many opportunities [against the All Blacks] and we need to use the opportunities we do get. We want to see the improvement that this team has had in the last 12 months and we want to measure ourselves against the best."

He admitted it is a massive challenge, but one they are really look forward to.

"I don't think a lot of people expect us to win."

He was also full of praise for a New Zealand team he rate as one of the best ever.

"They just seem to play better and better every time they get on the park," he said of the World Cup holders.

"It is a special group, this New Zealand side. They have achieved a lot and if you look at the history of rugby, what this group has achieved, they must definitely rank up there as one of the best teams of all time.

"That makes the challenge so much bigger for all of us ... not having won here for so long [not since 1937] and this New Zealand team having achieved so much - our team just want to prove a point."

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