All Blacks target set piece
New Zealand pack hoping to dominate up front in Hamilton
Last Updated: September 10, 2009 11:16am
All Blacks: In training
New Zealand's forwards expect the line-out to be a key area if they are to keep the Tri-Nations tournament alive by beating South Africa on Saturday.
Victories in Bloemfontein and Durban over the All Blacks have helped take the Springboks to the brink of victory in the competition.
Victor Matfield was particularly impressive in those two games, as the world champions dominated at the line-out.
But, after a back-to-basics approach brought rewards against Australia in Sydney, hooker Andrew Hore is hopeful the All Blacks will not be overawed in Hamilton.
"He's pretty special. He moves around and I suppose once you've lost a few line-outs you start thinking he's God as well," said the hooker of Matfield with a wry grin.
"You can get a little bit carried away with one man but he has definitely put a lot of pressure on us in the last few years.
"I don't think anyone's invincible, though. He's just been going pretty well and he's pretty good at his job.
"We'll just get in there, hopefully find some holes and get some ball."
In the absence of Ali Williams and Anthony Boric, young lock Isaac Ross has found himself taking on the role of line-out caller and number one jumper ahead of veteran lock Brad Thorn.
And against probably the best line-out exponents in the world in Matfield and Bakkies Botha, it is a challenge the 24-year-old is relishing.
"South Africa are really good so it puts a lot of pressure on me but I just try to focus on not making the job about me alone," Ross said. "We're trying to get everyone's eyes open and aware of the space.
"They've got two really good rugby brains and especially good line-out brains. Their pack has been together for a while and ours is still a bit young, especially with me, but it's all good.
"The line-out is my baby and I take full responsibility if it goes bad."
Twenty two-year-old front rower Owen Franks is focusing on another set-piece, however - the scrum - as a pivotal area and wants to follow the example set by Australia in Brisbane last weekend.
"I think if you can get them going on the back foot it stops their number eight from gaining good yards," Franks said.
"Personally when you're not going too well at scrum time it gets you down. If we can dominate that part of the game it will be huge for winning the Test on Saturday.
"We've worked real hard this week and seen a couple of things we can exploit. We've been working hard to basically do that and really follow the Aussies and get in on the back of what they've done."
South Africa arrive in Hamilton on Thursday afternoon knowing that a bonus point would be enough for them to claim their first Tri-Nations title since 2004.
The All Blacks need a bonus-point win to keep their slim hopes alive but, with wet weather expected on Saturday and in the midst of their leanest try-scoring season on record, their chances could be slim.