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So much at stake in Tri Nations opener

New Zealand take on the holders South Africa tomorrow with the powerhouses expected to serve up a clash that carries greater significance than a normal Test.

WELLINGTON // New Zealand take on the holders South Africa in the Tri Nations opener tomorrow with the powerhouses expected to serve up a clash that carries greater significance than a normal Test. The All Blacks will be desperate to arrest a poor run of results against the visitors after losing all three of their Tri Nations matches to the world champions last year. In terms of rewriting history, both sides have an added incentive to emerge with a victory: New Zealand are unbeaten in 21 matches at Auckland's Eden Park dating back to 1994, while South Africa have not won there since 1937.

The Springboks, however, have won their last two matches on New Zealand soil and the psychological edge South Africa would gain with a victory at a venue hosting next year's World Cup semi-finals and final is a big talking point in the local media. "I personally think it is irrelevant," Wayne Smith, the All Blacks assistant coach, said of any World Cup factor hanging over the clash. "Both teams are going to have a good crack at the World Cup. But not today or tomorrow."

John Smit, the Springboks' captain, said it would be tough to defend their title. "To keep expecting the same results and not thinking that other teams will catch you would be naive," he said. "It is for us to make sure that we can keep stepping up." * Reuters

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