Veteran lock Sam Whitelock says the All Blacks will flip the script on the Springboks with a lightning start to an “electric” rematch between the old foes at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The All Blacks trailed 10-0 in the first 20 minutes of last week’s Rugby Championship clash at Mbombela Stadium, eventually losing 26-10 for their fifth defeat in six Test matches.
New Zealand have gone behind on the scoreboard first in all four of their Tests so far in 2022, but Whitelock expects the Kiwis to come flying out the blocks against the Boks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
“Electric is the word that sums up playing at Ellis Park. It’s an amazing place to play and both teams have played amazing rugby there in the past,” he told reporters at an All Blacks conference in Joburg on Friday.
“I think back to 2013, it had everything – it had SA score a couple of tries early and we managed to come back in the end. Playing catch up is harder to do and you can do it as a Test side, but it’s way easier to start well.
“So, going out there and executing straight away, completing what we have to do, is something we’ve talked about this week.
“South Africa do squeeze you if they do get in front and they’re good front-runners, so ideally we don’t want to give them that 10, seven-point head start from the first whistle.”
Whitelock added: “The big, strong guys [of the Boks], they like to create momentum and get downhill and we’ve got to go there and make sure we don’t give them an opportunity to do that.
“And one of the biggest things with that is our discipline; you can’t give away silly penalties and give them opportunities to kick into corners and set up their rolling maul.”
The ferocity of the Boks in Nelspruit last weekend exposed the younger players in the New Zealand camp to the challenge of playing the world champions in the Republic, so Whitelock says it’s time for him to step up.
“There’s always pressure and a little bit of outside noise but the main thing as a leader and senior player in this team, I have to sort myself out first; I’ve got to train well to set myself up to play well,” he added.
“But besides that, it’s about passing on the knowledge of being at altitude … a couple of little tricks of the trade, like making sure you’re really hydrated before you get out there because you’re going to have a dry mouth which will make it hard to communicate.
“It’s also about trusting the boys and not overloading them with information, making sure they have enough that they can go there and play with a clear head.”