All Blacks coach Ian Foster is embracing the challenge of his first test against the world champion Springboks side as head coach.
The Rugby Championship schedule was confirmed on Friday, with the All Blacks kicking off the tournament with back to back Bledisloe Cup tests against the Wallabies.
The revival of the All Blacks most treasured rivalry has Foster excited for their first clash in 608 days where the New Zealand side ran away 23-13 winners but it ultimately began South Africa's run to becoming World Champions.
After missing out on all rugby in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world champions are back.
"They're the current world champions and they'll be coming off the back of a British and Irish Lions series," Foster says. "To bring them back in here will be special."
Special is a good way to describe the rivalry with Foster's being on all sides of it.
The wins, the losses, and of course the draws, but never as head coach and this will be Foster's biggest challenge since taking on the All Blacks top job.
"It's a big test," Foster says. "All Blacks South Africa tests are special and we really missed them last year.
"I know for the players there's always a huge level of tension and excitement about it."
The All Blacks will play a stand alone Bledisloe Cup test, before beginning the Rugby Championship against the Wallabies in Perth, with the return test at Sky Stadium in Wellington a week later.
They'll then face Argentina in Auckland and Wellington, before two tests against the Springboks in Dunedin and back at Eden Park.
"It's really given us something solid to get excited about," he says."
When the All Blacks season does start, Foster will have some selection headaches.
He's lost key players Sam Cane, George Bridge, Joe Moody, Jack Goodhue and Ardie Savea to injuries, while TJ Perenara is ineligible until he plays a provincincial match.
But with the World Cup just two years away, now is a good time to test their depth.
"Two years is a great one for exposing a slightly wider group to test match rugby and to test some of our selection theories and give them opportunities," Foster says.
Against the World Champions- there's no test quite like that.
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