All Blacks love playing at Ellis park, insists hooker Codie Taylor



Far from having to be dragged to Ellis Park like it is a chore, the All Blacks are pretty much unanimous that they love playing at the stadium that is like the brutal heartland of Springbok rugby, hooker Codie Taylor saying on Thursday that it is his favourite place to play.

New Zealand were greeted by a hostile cacophony last weekend at the Mbombela Stadium, but Ellis Park will see nearly 20,000 more near-rabid supporters crammed in and boiling over with passion.

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“The first 10 minutes you’ll be absolutely heaving because of the altitude and the arena,” Taylor said on Thursday at the All Blacks’ shiny Sandton hotel when asked what awaited the players in the grubby decay of Doornfontein.

“It’s a very intense place to play, but it’s also the best place to play rugby. I definitely have fond memories of running around there. It’s two proud nations going head-to-head.

“There’s a mutual respect and there have been some good relationships built, but it’s all-go once you’re out there,” Taylor said.

The 31-year-old has been recalled to the bench for probably his 70th Test appearance, replacing another veteran in Dane Coles.

‘You want to be out there’

“You always want to be out there, so there’s a bit of energy and I’m fresh after missing out last weekend,” Taylor said.

The Crusaders star played in a Super Rugby quarterfinal (2016) and final (2017) against the Lions at Ellis Park, so he has an idea of what to expect in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster said you expect to do a lot of running around at Ellis Park.

“I think it’s going to be a game of endurance, generally you do a lot of running around at Ellis Park. South Africa like to move you around early, we saw that last week.

“It challenges your fitness, but we very much look forward to playing on Ellis Park, and we know the Springboks do too. Ellis Park is pretty special,” Foster said.

Read more: All Blacks coach Foster on facing Boks at Ellis Park – ‘Always a special occasion’