Injured All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has backed his 21-year-old replacement Sam Cane to cope with the physical challenge expected from the Springboks in Saturday's Rugby Championship test at Auckland.
McCaw confirmed Monday he suffered a grade two medial ligament strain to his left knee during New Zealand's 28-13 win over Argentina last weekend and will miss the All Blacks' next two matches in the four-nation tournament.
He hopes to be fit to play his 120th test when New Zealand and South Africa meet in Johannesburg on October 6.
McCaw said Saturday's test against the Springboks, who are unbeaten in their last nine tests and downed Australia 38-12 in Brisbane last weekend, would be the biggest of Cane's career but he expected him to do "a good job.''
"The way they played on Saturday night, we realise we're in for a huge challenge,'' McCaw said.
"Presumably Sam will play there.
"It's going to be a good challenge (for Cane) but I think for the whole forward pack it's going to be a real physical battle which is what you look forward to.''
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said the loss of McCaw was "a big blow'' to the All Blacks, who are unbeaten as they attempt to retain their Rugby Championship title, but he added Cane was an able replacement.
"One thing I know about New Zealand rugby, they've probably got the best opensides around,'' he said.
"He's a quality player - every single New Zealand openside in Super Rugby is a quality player.
Meyer said while the Springboks were on a winning streak, they would have to improve to beat the All Blacks.
"This week we definitely want to focus on our own team,'' he said.
"We want to take it to the next level,'' he said.
"I truly believe this is going to be the ultimate challenge - tougher than we've ever had before. But it's a great challenge.''
Meyer said he saw no obvious weaknesses in the All Blacks team, although their scrum was tested on Saturday by Argentina.
"The All Blacks always lift themselves for South Africa,'' he said.
"They've got a really good scrum and have always had a great scrum. There are no weaknesses in that team.
"We are up for the ultimate challenge, we know it's going to be tough, the odds are against us and we're looking forward to it.''