Former New Zealand number 8 Kieran Read paused for a moment this week as he searched for a word to best describe the South African rugby fans at Ellis Park.
Current five-eighth Kiwi Richie Mo’unga says the effect of the high altitude in Johannesburg’s imposing stadium makes you taste “the blood in your lungs”.
The All Blacks face another level of challenges against South Africa at Ellis Park in Rugby Championship on Sunday (1:05 a.m. AEST) while already shouldering the burden of perhaps statistically becoming New Zealand’s least successful for 73 years.
In the midst of a crisis, the world’s best-known and most successful rugby team could suffer a sixth defeat in seven games, which would be their worst run since 1949 and would almost certainly see the end of Ian Foster’s time as a manager. ‘coach.
It could even be the end of the road for flanker Sam Cane as captain.
Foster and his players have tried to silence the noise of a disgruntled New Zealand public and scathing media since a historic home defeat to Ireland last month.
The clamor intensified last weekend after a 26-10 loss to the Springboks in the first of their back-to-back Tests in South Africa, which marks the start of the New Zealand Rugby League title defense.
It’s now at Ellis Park, where 60,000 barking South African fans are likely to relish adding to the crushing pressure currently being felt by their biggest rivals.
“The noise, 60,000, the altitude. You can feel the blood in your lungs, you can taste it,” said Mo’unga, who was promoted from the bench to start in the five-eighth and lead the attack in the one of the most important games for the All Blacks in recent times.
“But I’m also at the point where outside noise doesn’t matter to me,” Mo’unga said.
“I’m at a stage where if you’re not on our team, on our team, I don’t care what you think.”
Mo’unga said he was just desperate to “get another chance” to put things right for the All Blacks, echoing comments made this week by his teammates.
“We are desperate to improve and perform better than we are, so there is as much at stake as there ever was,” Cane said.
The All Blacks have managed the altitude and the crowds at Ellis Park before, winning two of their last three games in Johannesburg, where the Tests between the two have often been thrilling.
But this time the Springboks are close to their best after dominating the All Blacks at Mbombela last weekend.
South Africa could clinch a third straight win against New Zealand, something that seemed unthinkable just five years ago when the All Blacks beat the Boks 57-0 and South African rugby was on the mend. one of its lowest and darkest points.
“If you look at the All Blacks, I’m sure they will succeed. Our job is just to make sure they don’t succeed against us,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.
Foster’s biggest decision was dropping five-eighth regular Beauden Barrett on the bench and replacing him with Mo’unga, who was handed the starting 10 jersey for the first time this season and in a game where Foster’s job is on the line.
The New Zealand Herald said it could be “the last big call” of Foster’s time as a coach.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is in South Africa with the team and would be ready to sack Foster if they lose again at Ellis Park.
The Springboks have veteran No.8 Duane Vermeulen back in the starting lineup but have been forced into three more changes through injury and suspension, which means hooker Joseph Dweba, half-back Jaden Hendrikse and winger Jesse Kriel were all drafted in the 15.
The Springboks are still not expected to stray from their favored tactics which focus on powerful scrum and mayhem play, uncompromising defending and a hail of questionable kicks across the back three. ‘opposition.
That combination produced South Africa’s biggest victory over New Zealand in nearly 100 years last weekend.
“We expect them to deploy the same,” All Blacks captain Cane said.
SPRINGBOKS (15-1): Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Jaden Hendrikse, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Joseph Dweba, Beef niche
Reservations: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Kwagga Smith, Hershel Jantjies, Willie le Roux
ALL BLACKS (15-1): Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (c), Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ethan by Groot
Reservations: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Tupou Vaa’i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea