Graham Henry says Saturday’s result may have been different had the All Blacks converted more of their early try-scoring opportunities.
The All Blacks went down 18-5 to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth despite scoring the game’s only try. Henry believes there were plenty of positives to take from what was essentially a final trial before the World Cup, but at the same time the All Blacks coach lamented the visitors’ poor finishing.
‘It may have been a different situation at the end of the game had we taken our chances,’ said Henry. ‘The Boks were very good; they scrambled well on defence and played with a lot of passion, and kicked their goals. But we had six opportunities to score and only took one of them.’
Captain Keven Mealamu believes the contest was closer than the scoreline suggests, and was disappointed that the All Blacks couldn’t strike that momentum-swinging blow. All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said it was a combination of great Bok defence and All Black blunders that prevented the visitors from crossing the tryline on more than one occasion.
‘It’s not often that you break the line 23 times and you lose,’ Smith said. ‘It says a lot for the Boks’ scrambling defence. We perhaps lacked patience in those try-scoring situations. Maybe it’s the new combinations or the youth, or maybe South Africa were just too good.’
Henry picked several players returning from serious injury and experimented with a few new combinations. While this effected the All Blacks’ synergy in the backline, Henry also felt the visitors were too frantic on attack.
‘I don’t think there is anything wrong with our game plan. We created plenty of opportunities. When we get a few of the more experienced players back, I expect things will settle down a bit.’
Henry also stood by his decision to bring a team missing as many as eight big names to South Africa.
‘We decided that the Crusaders players needed a rest with a view to the World Cup, and we also needed to give a few players [returning from injury] game time. It wasn’t a case of disrespecting the Boks [by experimenting with a second-string team].’