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The Rugby Championship

An annual competition involving the southern hemisphere’s top four rugby-playing nations – New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina. Known as the Tri Nations from 1996 to 2012, when the Pumas were invited to join the party.

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All Blacks brace for aerial attack from Springboks in rugby union clash

South Africa expected to mount an aerial attack to break down New Zealand's high-octane running game in Rugby Championship clash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2012, 1:53am

The All Blacks expect to be targeted by an aerial bombardment today as South Africa search for a way to break the world champions' stranglehold on the Rugby Championship.

The Springboks' strategy appears anchored around flyhalf Morne Steyn and centre Francois Steyn kicking for territory and followed by any drop-goal opportunities and penalties on offer.

The All Blacks go into the match unbeaten after three rounds and on a 13-game winning streak, just five short of the world record of 18 straight wins by Lithuania - against the likes of Israel and Austria - from 2006 to 2010. South Africa are second on the championship table but have only one win to their credit, and have drawn and lost their last two games.

While the visitors fancy reversing their fortunes with the boot, New Zealand will persist with their high-octane running game - although this has been compromised a little with scrum half Aaron Smith benched for breaking team protocols.

Piri Weepu steps into the number nine position and although he does not possess Smith's speed to the breakdown nor his rapid pass, after 62 tests he does have a superior ability to read the game.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has been unable to hide his frustration at the high error count that has detracted from their wins against Australia and Argentina, and he wants an improvement against South Africa.

"What we've got to get right is being able to build pressure on the opposition rather than put it on ourselves," he said yesterday.

"They kick a bit but they're pretty good at chasing it and [if] you get the ball at the right end of the field and, if you make mistakes under pressure, they've got guys who will make you pay.

"We want to improve as a team every week and perhaps we've done that in stages, but we haven't put it together yet."

The All Blacks' patchy performances have not gone unnoticed by Springboks captain Jean de Villiers, who rated the hosts as "fantastic at times".

"I think about their last test against Ireland (60-0) and 22-0 against Australia. That type of result is pretty special. They're probably not firing on all cylinders so it's a great challenge."

However, De Villiers, who played in the Springboks' first victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin when they won 30-28 at the now defunct "House of Pain" Carisbrook ground in 2008, said the result was not a foregone conclusion.

"We've obviously got a game plan that we believe in and we will probably stick to that," he said. "But if it allows us to throw the ball around and we can see the space out wide we'll definitely try and take it into that space."

Although South Africa drew against Argentina and then lost to Australia in their last two matches, Steyn maintained their tactics suited what they wanted to achieve.

"We as a team also work on things and try to move the ball as well but we're not just kicking the ball away, we are kicking for a reason. I think that's what people outside don't realise."

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