All Blacks: Rieko Ioane admits Tests in South Africa are some of the ‘toughest’ he has encountered

All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane admits some of his “toughest” games for New Zealand have come against the Springboks in South Africa.

New Zealand will face the world champions on South African soil for the first time in four years as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the regular rugby schedule, meaning some of the All Blacks stars have not had the chance to visit the Rainbow Nation.

Delay has built suspense

Ioane admits the delay over the annual clash in South Africa has built further “hype”, making for an exciting continuation of one of rugby’s greatest rivalries.

“It’s a game that prior to the four-year absence everyone has looked forward to. We as players look forward to coming here,” he said.

“To have that break and not have that annual game over here, it builds the hype, especially on the outside.”

Ioane scored a key try in the 2018 clash that saw the All Blacks claim a narrow 32-30 win in Pretoria. The Blues speedster believes these are the games players need to “dig deep” and find their best in the key moments.

“Some of the toughest games I’ve had in the black jersey have been over here, you think back to the last time we were here [in 2018], it went beyond the 80 minutes,” he said.

“We really had to dig deep. The hardest games in the toughest places to play are the ones that you want to be a part of.”

Several players in the All Blacks squad have not had the chance to visit South Africa due to the restructuring of Super Rugby, and he believes it will be an “awesome” experience on their first trip.

“We had a meeting with all the boys that haven’t been here, as you said, because we don’t have them [South African teams] in Super Rugby,” he said.

“There is quite a few boys that haven’t been here and haven’t experienced the crowds, or South Africa at home.

“It’s definitely going to be a new experience for them but it’s going to be an awesome one.

“The first time I travelled here, I loved it.

“The landscape here is very different to all the places we have been, Cape Town, Jo’burg, so again it is something new to us older boys.”

Altitude a factor

Altitude is a much spoken about factor whenever a team travels to South Africa, but Ioane hopes it will not play too much of a role in their clash with the Springboks.

“It’s something that we have to build over the course of the week. There isn’t any magic secret or recipe to solving that,” he said.

“There are going to be boys that struggle to sleep or whatever, but it’s about getting on once we are between those white lines.

“It’s about being the best team we can. The altitude does play a factor but it shouldn’t be too big a factor.”

READ MORE: Opinion: Personnel changes the All Blacks must make in order to bounce back in Rugby Championship openers against South Africa