Johannesburg - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has said that the respective loose trios will decide Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park, but his All Black counterpart Steve Hansen begs to differ, reports the supersport.com website.
According to Hansen, it will be the tight forwards who will decide this game, with much obviously hinging for him on how his replacements for two key injured members of the pack go against the Boks.
He has called in former wrestler Joe Moody to replace the injured Wyatt Crockett at loosehead prop, and even more tellingly, is going to have to go without the regular No 4 lock and unsung hero of the All Black success, Brodie Retallick.
However, Hansen appears confident that areas of concern that arose out of the previous clash between these sides in Wellington three weeks ago have been sorted out in the interim.
"I can’t agree that it will be the loose-forwards who decide this match, as for me it will come down to the tight forwards," said Hansen.
"If you get tight forward dominance, then you create the platform for your loose-forwards to play off.
"If you don’t, then no matter how good your loose-forwards are you may struggle in the absence of momentum."
What Hansen says does make sense.
As it turns out, the All Black starting front-row for this game is the same one that finished the Wellington match, and which was involved in a dramatic turn-around scrum that nearly won the Springboks the game, with Keven Mealamu now the starting hooker whereas Dane Coles played last time.
"There is no doubt we are going to need our scrum to be much better than we were in Wellington," agreed the All Black coach.
"But we have been working on it and we think we have it sorted out.
"We were good against the Pumas, who in turn dominated the Springbok scrum, so that gives us confidence.
"The scrum depends a lot on concentration and focus.
"In our last game we ended up scrumming at the level of the Bok scrum, which likes to scrum high, but we have worked on a change that should suit us this time."
Of course Retallick is a particularly big loss, as he is way more than just a good lineout forward, with Bok veteran Victor Matfield describing him as “the chief All Black ball carrier and also a player with great distribution skills”.
Hansen though reminded the media that Jeremy Thrush, who packs down in Retallick’s place, was part of the team that won in Wellington.
"Jeremy played in that game as a replacement for Sam Whitelock. Sam is back now, so that partially offsets the loss of Brodie."
The All Blacks will though miss Retallick’s hard-nosed, aggressive approach and while the lock is not quite as important to the Kiwis as the doubtful Duane Vermeulen is to the Boks, they are nonetheless starting the game without a crucial player.
Hansen meanwhile is looking forward to seeing Moody, who doesn't appear that known an entity even to the travelling New Zealand media, make his first start at Ellis Park.
"Joe has been working really hard and I feel he has a lot of potential.
"He is a former champion wrestler so he knows a lot about body position," said Hansen.
Moody did raise the attention of the South African media when he came up to be interviewed.
Asked what he thought of Jannie du Plessis, the Bok tighthead, after coming up against him a few times at Super Rugby level, Moody stopped just short of calling Du Plessis a cheat.
"Jannie is different to other props in that he scrums in and attacks the hooker, whereas the props I am used to facing in New Zealand all scrum straight by comparison," said Moody.
Of course, most tightheads do look to exert pressure on the hooker, so whether that really makes Du Plessis unique is open to interpretation, and Moody wasn't saying it in a way that appeared to suggest he was trying to be controversial.
Still, there are bound to be headlines around the country on Friday that will raise the temperature just a little.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Reid, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Liam Messam, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty