South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer might have set his stall out for a bit of ‘World Cup and chill’ by praising New Zealand as the best side ever to play the game, but it appears that his opposite number, Steve Hansen, didn’t quite get the message.
“No doubt about it, they will want to rip our heads off, " he said earlier this week. "He's just about killed us with compliments, he's a cunning wee devil is Heyneke.
"Just look at their record in the last four years. Usually after the World Cup there's a decline in performance but they just got better, which just doesn't happen in world rugby."
South Africa XV: W Le Roux, JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D de Allende, B Habana, H Pollard, F du Preez (capt), T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L d Jager, F Louw, S Burger, D Vermeulen.
Replacements: A Strauss, T Nyankane, J du Plessis, V Matfield, W Alberts, R Pienaar, P Lambie, J Serfontein.
Key man: Fourie du Preez - the hero of the quarter-final has two very important responsibilities today. The first is to disrupt Aaron Smith, who was utterly superb against France. South Africa cannot afford for New Zealand’s number 9 to dictate play quite so comfortably in this semi-final. The second is as an omen: du Preez has won four of last five Tests against All Blacks.
New Zealand XV: B Smith; N Milner-Skudder, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; J Moody, D Coles, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read.
Replacements: K Mealamu, B Franks, C Faumuina, V Vito, S Crane, T Kerr-Barlow, B Barrett, S B Williams.
Key man: Joe Moody - Yes, no doubt the majority of eyes will be trained on Richie McCaw and whether he can get the better of his final battle with Schalk Burger; or whether Julian Savea is finally able to run in his first try against the All Blacks, but this match may ultimately be decided by the battle between the two props. After injuries to the experienced Tony Woodcock and Wyatt Crockett, Moody will need to be at his best in only his tenth appearance for his country.
Forget the petty little spat between England and Scotland. You can ignore the bad blood between Jonathan Sexton and the entire nation of France. And it’s worse, even, than the mild animosity between Federico Mendez and Paul Ackford. This is New Zealand v South Africa we’re talking about, the All Blacks against the Springboks, and it is by far the fiercest rivalry in rugby union. Batten down the hatches, board up your windows, and crawl under the nearest table: this one is going to get lively.
At least, that is what is meant to happen. So you can imagine the general air of surprise when, earlier this week, the South African coach Heyneke Meyer applauded this current All Black outfit as “the best team that has ever played the game”, before adding “New Zealand don’t buckle under pressure, they are great on the counter-attack so you must not give them turnovers as they will score from half a chance and they have a brilliant tactical kicking game.”