All Blacks coach Ian Foster underlines importance of upcoming Bok clash

All Blacks coach Ian Foster underlines importance of upcoming Bok clash

All Blacks boss Ian Foster believes this weekend's game against South Africa will provide a clear indication of where they stand ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand endured a difficult start to 2022 but ended the year unbeaten in seven and began the 2023 campaign in fine style.

They opened the Rugby Championship with a dominant 41-12 victory over Argentina, suggesting that the team are continuing to make progress.

The All Blacks certainly look in much better shape looking towards the World Cup in France, but they will receive a sterner challenge on Saturday.

South Africa, who are the current Webb Ellis Cup holders, are their opponents in Auckland this weekend.

Jacques Nienaber's men appear once again to be peaking at the right time, as evidenced by their impressive 43-12 triumph over the Wallabies.

This encounter has been billed as a potential Rugby Championship title decider, but Foster also believes it could have ramifications further down the line.

"It's test two," New Zealand's head coach told reporters. "We answered a few questions (in Argentina). We went into last week with some clear objectives about people and how we wanted to do things, and this is another chance to test that.

"And there's nothing better than playing South Africa. It brings out the best in both teams. We love these games and, yes, we will get a clear mark of where we're at. But it's also just another little step on the ladder."

New Zealand have made several changes to their line-up for the Springboks clash, with Richie Mo'unga replacing Damian McKenzie the headline selection.

There are also alterations in the back three as Mark Telea and Will Jordan take their place on the wing. They are joined by Beauden Barrett at full-back, who keeps his position in the side after starting against Argentina.

"We've put Mark a little on ice with his knee injury, but he got through a full week of training last week, and he's ready to go," he said.

"Will wasn't with us last week, and this week has been light, so we've eased him in a bit. We had to do quite a bit of work with him yesterday and today, but he's a quality player.

"We were pleased with Beaudy last week. We enjoyed his control, and because Will wasn't with us, this is a chance to come in and get a bit of a groove going on the wing.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up at fullback, so there's a chance to play around with how we finish games. That's also part of the picture we're looking at."

Although Foster was pleased with their display against Los Pumas, Foster is still looking for much more from his team.

"We're still striving for that 80-minute performance. We're probably at our weakest when we've got a big lead. We just get too loose," he added.

"[Last week] we went away from some things that were working for us. We're talking a lot about that. It's a concern, but not a major one.

"We're trying to build the group, so our bench is really clear around how they contribute."