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Meyer hails All Blacks as 'best ever'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/10/2015
Mutual respect: Heyneke Meyer and Steve Hansen © Getty Images Mutual respect: Heyneke Meyer and Steve Hansen

WELLINGTON, NZN - Heyneke Meyer has heaped praise on New Zealand, calling them the best side in rugby history, after naming an unchanged Springboks starting XV for their Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Meyer still believes South Africa can topple the defending champions at Twickenham on Sunday (NZT) but says they need to keep their emotions in check to do so.

South Africa have selected Lood de Jager in their starting line-up, but the lock must still pass the formality of a fitness test on his foot injury later in the week.

Veteran lock Victor Matfield is fit to take a seat on the bench after hamstring trouble, and will start should De Jager fail to complete his own recovery.

Matfield's return is the only change to the side that overcame an injury-depleted Wales in their quarter-final.

Meyer said he was full of admiration at what All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had achieved since taking the helm of the side after their 2011 Cup win.

"I really mean this, it's not just talk: this is the best team that has ever played the game," he said.

"If you look at the last four years, after a World Cup usually there's a decline in performance.

"Steve's been there for eight years, four as assistant, and they've just got better after the previous World Cup, which just hasn't happened before in world rugby.

"We know this must be our best performance probably ever to beat them, because I do believe they are best team ever to play the game."

The All Blacks clicked into top gear in their quarter-final with a 62-13 of France but Meyer, whose side needed a late try to get past Wales, said only their best will do against their old foes.

"You have to believe you can beat them. We know we have to be at our best.

"Every single game against them has gone right to the wire."

Meyer said his respect for Hansen came after he consoled him with a beer after a loss and now the winning coach buys the other a case of beer after their encounters.

"Hopefully I can give Steve a case of beers on Saturday!"

He said in the past they had been too highly strung heading into matches against the All Blacks and was using psychologist Pieter Kruger to keep the squad level-headed.

"I've made mistakes as a coach in over-motivating the guys, because everyone wants to do something different against the All Blacks.

"The self-belief has been there from day one, so we just have to go there, don't put too much emotion on it, just be very, very excited and go and play.

"If you do too much off-field then that's where the players start to wonder."

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damien de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (capt), Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Victor Matfield, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

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