New Zealand coach Steve Hansen says the world champions still have room for improvement.
The All Blacks have now won 16 consecutive Tests and should break the world record of 18 on their end-of-year tour. They won all six of their matches in the Rugby Championship, adding the southern-hemisphere trophy to the World Cup they won last year. Hansen, though, doesn’t think they’ve reached their peak.
‘We haven’t got ourselves nailed yet but we’re getting better,’ he said. ‘We know we have some very talented players, but so have lot of other teams. The difference between us and them is that we are perhaps getting our preparation right during the week and ensuring that our players have the best chance to perform on the Saturday.’
Hansen said it had been difficult to travel from New Zealand to Argentina and then to South Africa, but that they had managed the players’ workloads carefully.
‘We went to a second time zone, so sleep was an issue this week, but we trained smart.’
Meanwhile, Richie McCaw lauded his side’s mental strength at Soccer City.
‘We had the Rugby Championship trophy sewn up last week, but the guys understood the challenge of coming to South Africa and the need to back it up. There are a few guys in our squad who have been around a while and they ensured that we kept our edge.
‘We’re reasonably fit and pride ourselves on playing for 80 minutes. Our fuel tanks probably weren’t 100% full coming into this game, so it came down to mental desire, the ability to keep getting up. It was a battle of wills today, and we got momentum that kept us going.’
The All Blacks captain has now won 100 of his 112 Tests, a record which Hansen called ‘pretty spectacular’.
‘It is pretty special,’ said McCaw, ‘but you’ve got to be part of a pretty special team to be able to do that.’
By Simon Borchardt, at Soccer City