All Blacks scrum coach Greg Feek says they expect a tough battle ahead against Namibia when the two teams meet in the Rugby World Cup on Friday.
The teams play in their second game of the tournament on Friday at 21:00 in Toulouse.
Despite their much lower place (than that of the All Blacks) in the standings, the Welwitschias also boast Bayonne’s experienced hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, as well as four forwards who play in South Africa.
Former Springbok mentor Allister Coetzee is Namibia’s head coach these days.
“They have several players in the team who have played for the Cheetahs before, even sometimes in Europe,” Feek said before Friday’s game.
“They will be ready to fight. It will be a big test for us; we have a lot of respect for the team.”
Both teams lost their opening games.
Namibia lost 52-8 to Italy on Saturday and three-time World Cup winner New Zealand’s players are licking their wounds after losing 27-13 to host country France on Friday.
Feek, himself a former prop, denied that morale in the All Blacks camp is low after the team lost its first ever group game.
“There is always confidence when we have the talent we have,” says Feek.
“A few things just have to come together to get our game going.
“Against the French – in terms of preparation – there were maybe one or two things that we couldn’t quite get right. We are now trying to manage it as best we can.”
Captain Sam Cane missed the game last week due to a back problem and there is still doubt as to whether he will be in action against Namibia.
“He’s still among the men, doing his thing,” says Feek.
“We just have to be careful. We take it day by day. At this stage we just have to wait and see.”
Former New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen unofficially joined the camp this week. Hansen was an assistant coach during the team’s World Cup victory in 2011. As head coach, he built the team when they successfully defended their title four years later and then led them to third place in 2019.
“He throws his pennies into the poor market, but not really in a formal role. He just observes things,” hacker Dane Coles told reporters.
“He has a good, deep bond with many of the players he has coached before. You see it among the players in the smiles and banter.
“It made everyone’s mood more tidy.”