All Blacks deny they are 'hiding a monster'

New Zealand second-row Brodie Retallick is expected back from injury in October but South Africa thinks the All Blacks may be up to something.

TOKYO, 17 Sep - Will he play or won't he? All Black Brodie Retallick's fitness is a matter of claim and counter-claim between the New Zealand and South Africa teams. 

Springboks assistant coach Matthew Proudfoot thinks the All Blacks could be trying to pull a fast one ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup 2019 showdown in Yokohama.

The 28-year-old lock, pictured above, sustained a dislocated shoulder on 27 July in Wellington, when South Africa came from behind to register a 16-16 draw with the reigning World Cup champions.

The New Zealand camp said the 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year will not be ready to play until the last Pool B match against Italy on 12 October at the earliest - but that did not stop forwards guru Proudfoot expressing his doubts.

"Are you sure he’s not playing?” the former Scotland test prop asked about Retallick at a media conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

"Well, Mr (Steve) Hansen (All Blacks coach) said that they have a full squad to pick from – that was his last press release. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a little trick up their sleeve.

"If he plays, massive player for them. If he doesn’t play, they’ve got two very good replacements in (Scott) Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu."

New Zealand assistant head coach Ian Foster was puzzled by the comments.

"I do not know why Matthew would think that," he said. "He’s (Retallick) quite hard to hide from you guys, a six-foot nine-inch (2.05m) monster, so we haven’t been sneaking him in in training or anything like that. He’s progressing really strongly but I’m pretty sure he won’t be there on Saturday. But you never know."

Proudfoot said the Springboks are expecting the All Blacks to bring a new dimension to their game after several close encounters over the past two seasons.

While the winner of the match will most likely top Pool B, Proudfoot does not think that would give them a considerable advantage in the quarter-finals.

"Just out of respect for who they are, they are an intelligent bunch and they will bring something new. We know they have been working on various aspects of their attack," he said.

"If you read the narrative coming out of their camp, that has been where they have been working on.

"The nature of the contest between the two teams is so close – as it has been the past 18 months, post that big defeat (57-0 in Albany in 2017).

"So, that is probably going to overshadow the result rather than what the effect on the tournament is going to be. The game will be won and lost on small executions, and I don’t think that will necessarily derail any future plans of either team."

RNS am/wh/djk/ajr