Whitelock up for Boks battle

This is Sam Whitelock's kind of test. He knows what's coming, he knows it is going to hurt, and he relishes that pain.

Saturday's test against the Springboks at Albany's QBE Stadium will be Whitelock's 15th appearance against the South Africans (and 91st test in all). You get the impression he could play them all back in his head. He has been on the winning side in 12 of them.

"It's one of those awesome test matches you hope you can be part of," said the 30 year-old after Tuesday's training hitout at Alexandra Park. "If you go back through history between South Africa and New Zealand, those are the games people talk about 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. No doubt this one will be the same.

"The beauty I love about it is they're big, strong guys and there is always that physical battle. They really pride themselves on it, so you always know it's going to be physical."

It has the makings of a goodie, all right. The All Blacks are 3-0 in the Rugby Championship, but still searching for the proverbial 80-minuter. The Boks have two wins and a draw, and are three points behind the New Zealanders on the standings, and most probably need a first win in New Zealand since 2009 to stay in the race.

Whitelock sat the last test, and returns with a spring in his step to resume his world-class second-row partnership with Brodie Retallick.

"Last week was a little frustrating," he admitted. "I just love playing and if given the opportunity would love to be out there every week. But the team always comes first."

Whitelock is adamant the Boks turn up, having lost nine of their last 10 tests against the All Blacks, and their last seven in New Zealand, a serious threat.

"They're really confident, and when teams are confident things normally come off for them. The first couple of game they were playing typical South African rugby – their big strong guys were carrying hard and they were using their skills when releasing the ball to go wide.

"What's happened before means next to nothing. It's all about this week, and we've got to make sure our preparation is spot-on."

Whitelock also has plenty of respect for his opposite, lanky Boks lock and skipper Eben Etzebeth.

"He's developed massively from when he first arrived. He was similar to myself and made the starting lineup when he was quite young.

"It's always a steep learning curve for any player, but he's really grown and evolved in that leadership role, and seems to be really enjoying it. When you're enjoying your rugby, normally you're playing great rugby."

Whitelock also expects the Boks to continue a theme for the year and test the All Blacks with their pressure defence.

"Teams are smart enough now to keep changing the picture to make it hard for teams to read it," he said. "Good teams make you make decisions, whether it be under pressure through linespeed, or holding off.

"World rugby has picked up linespeed to the point where every team is doing it, so you have to deal with it most weeks. Teams are working out how to deal with it better."



Photo by: PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES (Caption:Sam Whitelock did it hard sitting out last week's test, but is ready for something special this week against the Boks).