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Hansen wary of South African praise

Steve Hansen

New Zealand have been paid many compliments by the South Africa camp in the build-up to their Twickenham clash but All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is taking the praise with a pinch of salt.

New Zealand have been paid many compliments by the South Africa camp in the build-up to their Twickenham clash but All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen is taking the praise with a pinch of salt.

While the Springboks have done it the hard way in the Rugby World Cup so far, losing to Japan in their opening pool game before narrowly defeating Wales in their quarter-final – New Zealand, hosts of the British & Irish Lions in 2017, have looked unruffled throughout.

The odds of a South Africa upset seem remote, with New Zealand having won 47 of their last 52 Test matches but Hansen has warned against complacency as they look to retain their World Cup crown. 

New Zealand have made just one change for Saturday's World Cup semi-final with Joe Moody replacing injured prop Wyatt Crockett.

Crockett has not recovered from the groin injury he suffered during the 62-13 quarter-final victory over France, while Moody, 27, was only called into the squad because of a tournament-ending injury suffered by Tony Woodcock.

Winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, scorer of five tries in the tournament, has shaken off a shoulder knock and starts.

“(South Africa head coach) Heyneke Meyer been very, very complimentary,” said Hansen. “He has just about killed us with kindness.

“He’s a cunning wee devil, Heyneke. He has been praising us all week and, while I know he means some of it, I know they’re getting ready to rip our heads off.

“If we go lapping up all the praise, we won’t be in the right mental state to play. He’s trying to paint a picture that they’ll have to play the best game of their lives. 

“At the same time, he’s trying to tell our guys that you just turn up and win. We’d be very foolish to fall into that trap.”

Meanwhile, South Africa have named an unchanged starting line-up for the game against New Zealand.

Lock Lood de Jager and hooker Bismarck du Plessis have both recovered from injuries sustained in the 23-19 quarter-final win against Wales.

In the only change to the squad, lock Victor Matfield is on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Matfield, 38, will hope to win his 126th Test cap after being preferred to Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench.

“There is usually a decline in performance after winning a World Cup,” said Meyer.

“For the first time that has not happened. 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.

"We know therefore that we will have to have our own best performance to beat them. But we have that belief. Games between us go to the wire, with a single score between the teams. We have to take every single opportunity and defend for our lives.”

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