By Greg Stutchbury
AUCKLAND, Sept 13 (Reuters) - New Zealand captain Kieran Read was keen to play down any suggestions of an Eden Park 'hoodoo' and felt his side were only concentrating on playing what was in front of them when they meet South Africa in their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday.
The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since they were beaten by France on July 3, 1994. A month later they drew 18-18 with the Springboks, but since then they have notched 30 successive victories at the Auckland venue.
"We haven't touched on it too much," Read told reporters on Friday about the team's record at the ground. "We love playing here at Eden Park.
"It certainly is our home here in New Zealand but I think it's more about us coming out and performing and doing what we can. I guess if we keep winning, that's what we want to do."
Read was not prepared to second-guess whether the ground held certain psychological advantages for his side over other international teams but if it did, the world champions were more than willing to turn the screw.
"I can't really answer that, but it's our job to keep them in that space if there is a slight bit of (that) knowledge in the back of their mind," said Read, who has been elevated again into the captaincy role due to Richie McCaw's knee injury.
"It's awesome to be at Eden Park from our point of view. I guess it's our biggest test for a long time so we're really looking forward to it."
The Springboks lead this year's Rugby Championship on 14 points, one ahead of the All Blacks, with both sides unbeaten.
The South Africans, however, head the table because of two bonus-point victories by scoring four or more tries and Read was well aware that Heyneke Meyer's side appeared to be prepared to give the ball more width this year.
"They are," added Read when asked if he felt the Springboks were more dangerous on attack this year.
"But they still pride themselves on their set piece and chasing kicks and being physical and that's something they will continue to do.
"I guess they have shown they can play with the ball and score tries which is a threat as well but I would expect them to still come at us in the forwards so that's the challenge for the boys up front."
Both sides have spoken about the importance of the match, with the result likely to provide a massive determination in the destination of the southern hemisphere championship while the International Rugby Board's top ranking was also on the line.
The All Blacks have been ranked number one in the world since Nov. 16, 2009 but will be replaced by Jean de Villiers' side if they lose, forcing some pundits to rate the game as the most important in New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup final.
"It's certainly a big challenge," Read said when asked about expectations surrounding the match which could see the All Blacks extend their perfect record in the Rugby Championship to 10-0 since the tournament was expanded to four teams last year.
"I think both teams are playing pretty good rugby at the moment. Both camps have got a bit of confidence.
"As a team, we know the challenges ahead but we're confident in our abilities and know that we can play a lot better than we have done.
"So it's going to be a good test." (Editing by John O'Brien)
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- Kieran Read
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