Veteran All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu's experience will be invaluable if he is picked to face the Boks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu's experience will be invaluable if he is picked to play in Saturday's showdown with the Springboks in Johannesburg.
Mealamu and fellow hooker Andrew Hore are the only two players in the squad that featured when New Zealand last faced the Boks at Ellis Park. That was in 2004 as the All Blacks suffered a 40-26 defeat in front of a capacity crowd.
And with rookie rake Dane Coles expected to return to action this week – after sitting out the win over Argentina in La Plata last Saturday – one of the two veteran hookers will not be in action.
But even if he doesn't get to play, Mealamu's last Test at Ellis Park – he packed down alongside Kees Meeuws and Carl Hayman, while Hore was on the bench – is still fresh in his memory.
“I still remember the game,” he told Fairfax Media.
“It wasn't a good day then. We haven't had much luck here. We were chasing our tail right from the beginning.
“We come here this year more aware of what we're walking into. It's no different to any other South African place. The atmosphere is right up there.”
And Mealamu admits that playing the Springboks in South Africa as an All Black is pretty special.
“It's one of the experiences when you're an All Black here coming down to the game,” he added.
“At all the South African parks you drive through the supporters and you're left outside to walk through the supporters. I've had a few choice words said. They are very passionate about their team.
“It will be a pretty amazing moment for the boys who get to play. We understand what we're walking into.”