All Blacks thrive on fear factor
Showing off different styles, two old rivals meet in a 'do-or-die' mission
The All Blacks and Springboks clash again in rugby union's biggest rivalry today, when New Zealand speed takes on South African muscle in a World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen raised many questions yesterday when he talked about fear within the camp.
"It's a stupid man who doesn't fear," he shot back.
"If you go into a fight and you don't fear the guy you're fighting, then you're either fighting the wrong bloke or you're stupid.
"That fear just heightens everything. It makes sure all your emotions are in the right place, so you can deliver the performance you need to."
Rival coaches Hansen and Heyneke Meyer have been playing mind games all week, but now it gets serious.
It is a battle of wits between All Black skipper Richie McCaw and his Springbok counterpart Fourie du Preez, a race to get into the record books featuring New Zealand wing Julian Savea and South Africa flyer Bryan Habana.
Savea and Habana share the record with New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu for the number of tries in a single World Cup - eight.
Habana is also level with Lomu for the overall World Cup record - 15.
Something is likely to give in only the fourth World Cup encounter - including the epic 1995 final won by the Springboks - between the two sides.
While there will be plenty of forward strength on show, the 91st meeting between the superpowers could be decided by rival scrum-halves Aaron Smith and du Preez.
Smith will hope his bullet pass can keep play moving at a frenetic pace to suit the All Blacks' lethal back-three trio of Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Smith, with speed off the bench allowing the All Blacks to maintain a high tempo for the full 80 minutes.
Du Preez, the Springboks' master tactician, will work off the opposite plan, keeping the ball close for Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and the rest of a heavy pack to relentlessly ram their way forward.
"It's not about smash and bash like other positions can be," said Aaron Smith.
"It's more about how you get your team around the park and we've identified (du Preez) as a key figure in their team."
Despite the forecast of rain, the All Blacks are unlikely to deviate from their running game.
Had it not been for their shock defeat by Japan in their tournament opener, South Africa might also have opted for a free-flowing style.
Instead, they reverted to the forward-orientated rugby that has been bred into them for generations.
That means a talented backline featuring Handre Pollard, like New Zealand's Dan Carter an attacking fly-half, powerful midfielders Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel and two fine finishers in Habana and JP Pietersen have been under-utilised.
New Zealand, as befits a side who have lost just three out of 52 matches since winning the 2011 World Cup, pride themselves on their ability to pull away at the end.
But star flyhalf Carter is not getting carried away, describing the showdown as "a do-or-die match".
"This is against some quality opposition we've played against quite a bit, so there is a lot of edge in training," Carter said.
"You often get asked the question who the toughest opposition are, and it does vary but, consistently throughout my career, South Africa have been right up there.
"The way they play the game, they are extremely physical, and you know that once you've played them, you will be sore for a few days.
"It's a different ball-game when you are playing South Africa in a World Cup play-off game. It means so much more. It's a huge challenge." - Wire Services.
SOUTH AFRICA v NEW ZEALAND
(Tonight, 10.45pm, Singtel TV Ch 115 & StarHub TV Ch 209 - FOX Sports 2)
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