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Sports

New Zealand chase championship with win over South Africa

media New Zealand skipper Kieran Read says his teammates must maintain their focus during their match against South Africa. Reuters/Ross Setford

New Zealand can wrap up their third consecutive Rugby Championship on Saturday with victory over South Africa in Wellington. The world champions start as heavy favourites having won 11 of their last 12 encounters against South Africa.

"It's a focus of ours to win this championship and we'd love to do it in four games. We've got that opportunity and hopefully we can perform out there," said New Zealand captain Kieran Read.

While the Springboks go into the match on the back of defeats to Argentina and Australia, New Zealand have won their three games and have collected bonus points from all of the fixtures.

But despite the contrasting fortunes of the two sides, New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, claimed that South Africa, who are ranked seventh in the world, should not be underestimated.

"South Africa are going to be desperate to put a performance on the park," he said. "Very rarely do they lose twice in a row, let alone three times in a row."

While Hansen basks in the glory of steering the All Blacks to the 2015 World Cup and a berth at the top of the rankings, his South Africa counterpart, Rassie Erasmus, is under pressure to change the fortunes of a team that used to be considered one of the powerhouses of world rugby.

Erasmus suggested early in the week he would be happy with a close loss. South Africa skipper, Siya Kolisi, echoed the views of the head coach.

"He's being honest," said Kolisi. "He just wants us to give our best no matter what the consequences. As long as we walk off the field and look each other in the eye and say: 'We've given it our best shot'. That's what he wants from us."

Kolisi said the Springboks had learned from the mistakes made in their losses to Argentina and Australia. Their match against the All Blacks, he added, would be a gauge of how much they had improved.

"Obviously, we know what's ahead of us playing the best team in the world," Kolisi said. "Wanting to improve ... that's the biggest thing. The team wants to get better.
We create such a lot of opportunities and we're not finishing. We do all the hard work getting close to the try line and then we'll make a mistake."

 

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