New Zealand coach Ian Foster has urged his side to “man up” when they play their first test in South Africa since 2018, kicking off the Rugby Championship in Nelspruit, on Saturday, by seeking to put behind them a horror run of form.
The ailing All Blacks have lost four of their last five tests to put Foster’s position under threat after his two assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar were axed in the wake of the historic 2-1 home series loss to Ireland last month.
Foster maintains he can turn around the fortunes of the side, starting with two tests away to the Springboks in the Rugby Championship, the second of which is in Johannesburg on August 13.
“It’s about the team manning up because the Boks are not one-trick ponies. That’s a fallacy,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“What they do well, they do really well. You don’t become the world champions if you’re not proficient at a whole lot of things. We have to go in with the mindset of wanting to play our game. There’s an edge and we know we can play better. We’ll man up, we need to be smart and physical, but we’ll need a good combination of both,” further added Forster.
Foster has largely kept faith with the side that lost the third test to Ireland, though there is a return after two years for wing Caleb Clarke, who replaces Sevu Reece, and a new front row that contains props Angus Ta’avao and George Bower plus hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho.
South Africa have not been in the best form either so far this season and looked unconvincing in their recent 2-1 home series win over Wales. They have stuck to what they know best and will look to be physically dominant against the All Blacks, use their set-piece to secure points and test the visitors under the high ball with a territorial kicking game.
Boks coach Nienaber said that while the All Blacks may be at a low ebb, he did not buy into the notion his side were heavy favourites.
“One has to stick to reality, and we know it’s New Zealand and it’s going to be a tough test match,” Nienaber said. “It’s not a team that you beat often.”
Nienaber has some sympathy for Fosters plight and said expectations within both teams will always be high. “If you are a coach, you are always two poor games away from being fired,” added Nienaber