By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - World champions New Zealand are expected to complete another clean sweep of the Rugby Championship as they finish this year’s campaign away in South Africa on Saturday.
A fifth title success in the last six years was already secured last weekend and the All Blacks are expected to underline their dominance against one of their traditional foes, who have come in for a heavy battering of late.
New Zealand have toyed with the Springboks in their last three clashes since the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi final, scoring 155 points in the process and won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two countries.
The 57-0 win in the Auckland suburb of Albany last month was a record defeat for South Africa, whose primary concern will be proving more competitive than they were at the North Harbour Stadium on Sept. 16.
“The All Blacks will again test us in every department. They don’t seem to have any weak areas, so we will have to show that we’ve learnt from our experience in Albany. Saturday is another huge opportunity for us to continue to grow as a team and build on our cohesion,” said coach Allister Coetzee at a news conference on Thursday, where he named three changes to his team.
The absence of veteran prop Tendai Mtawarira -- released on Thursday for unspecific personal reasons -- is a massive blow to the home side who have also moved Francois Louw to eighth man, although he has never played there before for South Africa.
New Zealand, anticipating fatigue after a long trip from last Saturday’s win over Argentina in Buenos Aires, let four players skip that match and travel directly to Cape Town from New Zealand instead.
Lock Sam Whitelock, flankers Sam Cane and Liam Squire and center Ryan Crotty are all included in the starting lineup for Saturday’s clash, with the team essentially the same one that destroyed the Springboks last month.
“We’ve not had as much time on the field this week but it’s all about energizing everyone and getting the zest back,” Crotty said on Thursday.
“It’s all about attitude for us this week. It comes individually, we each need to do what we need to do to be ready for kick off. The guys have got different plans in place. I’m sure everyone will have their attitude where it needs to be.”
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)