How Boks tested All Black character

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 08:36

REACTION: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said his side really had their character tested against a spirited and much-improved Springbok team in Cape Town on Saturday.

Hansen's side walked away with a narrow 25-24 victory after a brutal encounter in front of a partisan crowd at Newlands, which meant the World Champions finished another Rugby Championship unbeaten.

The All Blacks coach was especially pleased with how some of his younger players dealt with the pressure of such a tight Test match.

"I think South Africa will be very proud of their performance and the fans will be as well," Hansen told reporters after the match. "They never disappoint us, they always stand up when we play them in this country and they a good rugby side.

"Our guys showed a tremendous amount of courage and character. I don't know how many tackles were made, but we made a lot and it is nice to see a couple of young guys have the courage to do what they did. 

"[David] Havili and Damian [McKenzie] combined well to put us in a position to be able to hit the front so there was a lot of good things in it and we will go away and grow and learn even more about ourselves. It seems to be the song we are singing this year, but it is not a bad song."

Hansen added: "It will give our younger players, who haven't been in that situation before a little bit of belief that even though when it is tough you can find a way, so that is a positive.

"I think this year has been a great year for us. Like 2016 was a breeze when the young players all came in and played extraordinary rugby and it was a breeze mentality for them because they were all coming in trying to establish themselves and say, 'hey listen we don't need [Richie] McCaw and [Conrad] Smith and all these guys, we can still do this'. It became apparent that they are all talented rugby players and none of them really got put under pressure until [when they lost to Ireland in] Chicago

"Even then they didn't get to sleep with that rock under their tail for too long either because we got to play them [and beat them] in Ireland.

"This year, with sabbaticals and injuries and everyone else coming at us and playing the [British and Irish] Lions early, there has been quite a bit of pressure on us. Whilst we played some rugby for 80 minutes and really well, there have been other games where we played for 60 minutes and clocked off and all those things are learnings for a young team. 

"I think we only had five guys with over 50 Test matches [In the starting XV] which is unusual for us, but what it does is grow your talent underneath you and that is the pleasing thing. So, for the World Cup, it is great. The bigger the pool we got to pick from, the better it will be for us."

Hansen believes Saturday's narrow win was a more pleasing victory than their 57-0 win in Albany.

"The 57-0 win is pretty easy on the ticker, but I just get pleasure out of it every time we win. 

"It doesn't matter how you do it as long as you do it. You get greater pleasure when you see people performing and you want contests, but tonight [Saturday] we know we won a Test match and both teams really played well. 

"I'm not saying that we could have played better or not saying they [Springboks] couldn't, but both teams played well and so it was a real contest.

"When you win those types of games there is probably a bit more satisfaction there," said Hansen.

The All Blacks have two injury concerns after the match with Nehe Milner-Skudder suffering a dislocated shoulder, while Beauden Barrett suffered a head knock. 

By Warren Fortune

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