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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Zinzan Brooke column
Zinzan Brooke

All Blacks legend

People are talking about Saturday's Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand as a possible dress rehearsal for the World Cup final later this year.

It could be in terms of the teams involved, but from a World Cup point of view, I don't think it really matters.

Everyone wants to win every game, and in 2003 England made a big statement by going and winning down in New Zealand and Australia.

All Blacks centre Isaia Toeava runs in a try against France
Isaia Toeava is a pretty class player but he blows a bit hot and cold

But I think the All Blacks are on a bit of a dip at the moment, and I don't think they will win this weekend.

That may sound a bit odd after they have just thrashed France, twice, and Canada in the last few weeks.

But the French were pretty disappointing and I don't think that is a great build-up to a big match like this.

You would rather have a close 21-19, or 27-24, sort of win so you know you've been tested.

But I think this is a good time for New Zealand to have a bit of a blip.

I am not too worried if they lose the Tri-Nations title. They don't want to lose all the games, obviously, but they are in a nice position ahead of the World Cup.

They have won the Tri-Nations for the last two years, and if they don't this year, they can say 'either we have dropped our level down a bit or South Africa are coming up'.

I certainly think the Springboks have raised their own bar this year, and I was also quite impressed by Australia last week.

I thought they would get walloped, but at 19-10 up they could have shut the door.

But a while ago South Africa would have lost that game and after winning it late on like they did, they have got a bit of wind in their sails.

It doesn't look good for the All Blacks this week, but defeat could be a timely reminder of where they need to be come World Cup time, when everybody will be fighting fit.

South Africa locks Victor Matfield (left) and Bakkies Botha
Matfield (left) and Botha are a formidable second-row pairing
They have got a few little problems at the moment, especially in the second-row department.

With Chris Jack back at home, Troy Flavell and Greg Rawlinson are going to have their work cut out on Saturday against Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.

They have got to be very clever and go for variation and speed because Botha and Matfield will clean them out if they go for full line-outs.

My main concern is with the tight five, where the Boks are a bit bigger and with the size they have, their loose forwards are being allowed to do their stuff.

The new number eight Pierre Spies is a good runner and gets himself over the advantage line, and Schalk Burger has been right in the thick of it again.

When you look at the midfield contest too, the All Blacks centres Isaia Toeava and Aaron Mauger look like little kids up against Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie.

Toeava is a pretty class player but he blows a bit hot and cold for me.

He has got a bit of talent as he showed with the way he took his try in the second Test against France but he makes too many mistakes - little things, a couple of dropped passes here or there - and lacks a bit of polish.

Luke McAlister, who played at 13 against Canada, is another option and has certainly got all the ability, but whether he is a Test centre I'm not too sure.

It might be they need to put Mils Muliaina back at 13 and play Leon MacDonald or Nick Evans at full-back. Evans has certainly got the gas to play there.



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Zinzan Brooke column
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