Nonu braced for Springbok midfield

New Zealand’s Ma’a Nonu expects a “massive” centre match-up against South Africa when the old rivals meet in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.

Both sides have veteran campaigners to call upon but nowhere is there a greater contrast between youth and experience than in midfield.

Nonu and centre partner Conrad Smith have a combined 193 caps, with Nonu boasting 101.

The 2011 World Cup-winning duo are the most capped Test midfield combination of all time.

By contrast, South Africa centres Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende have just 20 caps between them.

Yet the novice pair performed creditably in a 27-20 loss to the All Blacks at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park in July. Kriel scored a try.

“They are a great partnership and I’ve seen them grow this year,” Nonu told a Twickenham press conference on Friday.

“They are both at great Super 15 franchises and it’s going to be a massive match-up in terms of myself and Conrad.

“We have prepared well, so we’ll see how it goes in the game.”

Nonu will also have plenty of experience inside him in the shape of 33-year-old Dan Carter.

Widely regarded as the best fly-half of his generation, injury forced the 110-times capped Carter out of the last World Cup early on and he missed the final.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play outside Dan for over 10 years” said Nonu. “I guess we started our careers at the same time. I’ve watched him grow and playing at the top of his game is good to see.

“He’s a great friend as well, so hopefully we just carry on.”

Nonu downplayed suggestions of wanting to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy this time around in order to get Carter the winners’ medal he was denied four years ago.

“I don’t think we want to think about the last World Cup,” Nonu said.

“It’s a collective thing for us. It’s all about the All Blacks and that’s what we want.”

Meanwhile New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, the world’s most-capped player with 146 Tests behind him, said experience could be an over-rated quality.

“Just because you’ve been around a while, it doesn’t mean you are the right guy to be picked,” said McCaw.

“The few of us who have been around quite a few years, we’ve still got to earn our spots in the team,” the openside flanker added, with his team having stormed into the quarter-finals on the back of a 62-13 thrashing of France.

“From our point of view, you don’t just pick just because you’ve been around a while, you’ve still got to be doing the job,” said McCaw, speaking four years to the day since New Zealand beat France 8-7 in the 2011 World Cup final at Auckland’s Eden Park.

“It’s good that we’ve got guys who are doing that.”

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