Rugby Union

Steve Hansen says New Zealand’s clash with South Africa has little impact on World Cup

New Zealand’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa will have few implications for the World Cup, according to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

The two sides, who meet in the opening round of the World Cup in Japan, are expected to field strong line-ups for Saturday’s match in Wellington, having rested players for the opening round of the southern hemisphere tournament.

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The All Blacks rested a number of Canterbury Crusaders players for their 20-16 win away to Argentina, while Rassie Erasmus picked a veritable B-team for the Springboks’ 35-17 win over Australia.

The match may be decisive in the abridged Rugby Championship but Hansen believes there will be little impact beyond that.

“I guess it will give whoever wins it a little confidence going into the World Cup, but it won’t mean whoever wins this one will automatically win the one in the World Cup,” he said.

“Even then whoever wins that game, it doesn’t mean the other team is knocked out either.

“In the big scheme it gives everyone to have a wee look at each other and feel each other out, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the World Cup, no.”

South Africa pulled off a stunning 36-34 upset of the All Blacks in Wellington in last year’s Rugby Championship, the Springboks’ first away defeat of the New Zealanders since 2009.

It was Hansen’s first loss in the Rugby Championship since a 27-19 loss to Australia in 2015 and announced Erasmus’ previously unfancied side as a genuine World Cup force.

Hansen can call on several hundred caps of Test experience with players including regular captain Kieran Read and lock Sam Whitelock fresh after missing the opener against Argentina.

However, the head coach was pleased with the way a number of his fringe players performed against Argentina and he offered no clues as to the make-up of his side for Saturday.

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