All Blacks v Springboks: Beauden Barrett relishes first clash against reigning world champions since 2011

All Blacks star Beauden Barrett relishes the chance to face world champion opponents for the first time in his career.

After winning the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, New Zealand have held that title for most of the last decade, losing it to South Africa in 2019.

Coincidentally, the last world champions they faced were also the Springboks, winners of the 2007 World Cup, who beat them 18-5 at Port Elizabeth in 2011.

Of current All Blacks, only Sam Whitelock has faced a world champion side, with all the Rugby Championship squad in Australia debuting after 2011. Whitelock has missed this leg of their campaign, after staying home for the birth of his third child.

After South Africa missed the 2020 iteration of the tournament, New Zealand will square off with their great rivals on Saturday, for the first time since the 2019 World Cup - and the 100th time in the history of their rivalry.

"It's been a while since we've played the 'Boks," Barrett says. "It's the first time for me personally - and everyone in the team actually - playing against world champs.

"It's a rivalry that has a long tradition and very memorable games in it for me personally, whether it was playing or watching. There's that proud history between us two.

"I can't wait to play the 100th - hopefully - on the weekend."

But while the All Blacks are entering the clash in unbeaten form, with eight wins from eight tests in 2021, the Springboks are far from the finished article.

After struggling to a series defeat against British & Irish Lions earlier this year, South Africa opened their Rugby Championship with back-to-back wins over Argentina, before suffering successive losses to Australia.

South Africa's form and style have seen them criticised throughout the rugby world, hardly befitting a team ranked No.1 in the world until last Saturday, but Barrett knows the Springboks will inevitably up their game for one of the biggest test matches in its history.

"A wounded Springbok is quite dangerous and we just have to focus on ourselves.

"We're playing the world champions. We know that they'll rise to the occasion and be a lot better than they have been in recent weeks."

Meanwhile, Barrett also confirms he's over any injury concerns, after pulling up with a calf issue in the 39-0 victory over Argentina on the Gold Coast two weeks ago.

And coming off the bench in last weekend's 36-13 victory over the Pumas, the first-five is confident he's in condition to turn out at Townsville on Saturday. 

"[I'm] feeling great," he says. "I've been managed carefully by Gilly [strength & conditioning coach Nic Gill] in training and with loading.

"It's been feeling good." 

Join us at 7pm Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v South Africa Rugby Championship clash