The All Blacks won’t be caught talking South Africa down again in a hurry
Last updated 16:19, September 17 2018
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen lamented his side’s sloppiness in their stunning defeat to the Springboks.
The Springboks will be world beaters by the time Kieran Read gets to Pretoria.
They reckon you should never write the opposition’s team talk for them, which is why so many sportspeople offer so little pre-match. Better to say nothing at all than utter something that could be used as motivation.
You imagine All Blacks captain Kieran Read will sing the Springboks’ praises in Pretoria.
If Read, the All Blacks captain, had his time again, it would be interesting know how much praise he would have heaped upon the Springboks. Asked at his Friday press conference if South Africa remained New Zealand’s greatest rugby foe, Read hummed and haahed a bit. He said the Springboks were special in their own way, but no more important than any of the All Blacks’ other opponents.
No sooner had South Africa beaten New Zealand 36-34 the following night than the defeated coach, Steve Hansen, was looking to reassert the primacy of that rivalry.
“I think a lot of people got seduced by the [57-0] score in North Harbour [last September], but the game after that we won by a point [25-24 in Cape Town] and this game was exactly the same,” Hansen said.
“They’ve been our traditional foe for a long time and a team we have a lot of history with and respect for and, from a rugby point of view, if you weren’t involved right at the coalface of the All Blacks then you’d say ‘wow, what a game’. But, at the same time, I am involved right at the coalface and the players are and Joe [Locke] the media man is and Kat [Darry] the dietician is, so all of those people feel the pain because we want to be successful.”
Coach Steve Hansen, left, and the All Blacks got a rare taste of trying to lose well.
It’s right that the All Blacks feel bad after a defeat such as Saturday’s. They did beat themselves, after all, thanks to a mixture of poor execution and bad option taking. There’s no need to make a meal of it, though.
Lifting for one-off occasions is something of a Springboks specialty. It’s maintaining the sort of level that we saw at Westpac Stadium, which remains their challenge.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus, left, had every reason to be ecstatic in Wellington.
Nevertheless, you can expect the All Blacks to sing South Africa’s praises from now until their next meeting, at Loftus Versfeld on October 7. In part to avoid adding any fuel to the Springboks’ fire, but also on moral grounds.
“Sport’s a great showcase for people’s character and, when you lose and you’re meant to win, or when you win when you’re meant to lose, you see a range of emotions,” said Hansen.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read would only say that South Africa are “special in their own way”.
“When you’re used to winning all the time, as we are, I think it’s really, really important that you show the same range of emotions as when you win. You’ve got to stand up and be counted and thankfully I think [the players] have done that.
Cheslin Kolbe leads the South African celebrations on Saturday night.
“I don’t think they’ve been poor losers. I think they’ve accepted the fact that they got beaten on the night by a team that played better than we did.”
The team now leave on Friday for Buenos Aires, where they meet Argentina on September 30 before going on to Africa. Blindside flanker Liam Squire will miss that trip with a hand injury, with Luke Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and Jackson Hemopo – who is close to being over a bone-bruise on his knee – the other members of the squad who can play at No.6.
Beyond them, Vaea Fifita might be deemed to have done his time in Mitre 10 Cup, if reinforcements are required.
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