Conrad Smith believes South Africa's series win against the British & Irish Lions will have given them an extra edge heading into the Tri Nations. The Springboks open their campaign against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein on Saturday having won a closely fought series against the Lions 2-1.
Smith knows from personal experience how a Lions series win can lift a side after the All Blacks successful 3-0 clean sweep of the best of Britain and Ireland four years ago. The New Zealanders went on to win the Bledisloe Cup and Tri Nations in the following months and they are trophies the All Blacks have retained ever since. The All Blacks centre reckons success against the Lions will only have whetted the appetite of the world champions.
"I know they would have finished that series and will be wanting more success," the 27-year-old said. "You just get a thirst for more. When we won the 2005 Lions series we were excited about the Tri Nations because you get that success under you belt and you just want to keep playing and win more trophies. "They will have the confidence of winning that series, which was a big challenge for them, and they will be pretty determined to perform well in this Tri Nations.
"They've got a strong outfit over there and they've had the success in the Super 14 [with the Pretoria Bulls winning the title] as well. We're under no illusions as to how tough it will be." New Zealand's confidence will also be high though, thanks to a hard-fought 22-16 win against Australia at Eden Park yesterday. The All Blacks headed to South Africa yesterday without loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett and winger Hosea Gear in their squad for the Tri Nations matches with the Springboks.
Only 28 members of the 30-man squad were allowed to travel for the two matches against the world champions and the need to leave Crockett and Gear behind left coach Graham Henry annoyed. "I don't understand the rules. It's something to do with money I guess. We are frustrated we can only take 28," Henry said. The utility back Isaia Toeava was the only squad member ruled out with injury as he recovers from a stress fracture in a foot. He will not be available until the second Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Sydney on Aug 22.
Toeava's place has been taken by the uncapped Wellington and Hurricanes utility Tamati Ellison, who trained with the squad in Auckland last week. * PA Sport