Foster & Cane facing the axe after 'best performance of the year'?
REACTION: New Zealand coach Ian Foster is facing fresh calls to step down, after his side’s latest loss.
Reports out of New Zealand suggest the under-dire All Black coach could fall on his sword – at the behest of New Zealand Rugby.
Captain Sam Cane has also come under renewed scrutiny, after yet another underwhelming performance.
The All Blacks were dominated by the Springboks in front of a capacity 43,000 crowd in Nelspruit – the first game of the 2022 Rugby Championship.
A late try by loose forward Shannon Frizell appeared to put some gloss on the scoreboard for the visiting team, only for Springboks fullback Willie Le Roux to score in the last play of the game to seal what was an emphatic 26-10 victory.
In truth, the All Blacks didn’t pose much of a threat and it was largely one-way traffic following an early try from the electric Kurt-Lee Arendse.
It’s the fifth loss in six Tests for the All Black coach, a heretofore unheard-of run of results for the giants of the sport.
They will now drop to their lowest ever World Rugby rankings position, fifth, by dint of having lost the game by 15 points or more.
The defeat will heap further pressure on Ian Foster, whose coaching reshuffle post the Ireland series loss – Jason Ryan coming in and John Plumtree and Brad Mooar departing – wasn’t enough of a change to bring an end to New Zealand’s miserable run of results.
If media reports in New Zealand are to be believed, Foster may even resign off the back of the latest capitulation.
The New Zealand Herald reported that Foster was asked by NZ Rugby to step down if his side lost to the Springboks – a move that would be welcomed by many if not most in the rugby-mad nation.
After the game, Foster said in his pitchside interview that the loss in ‘many ways’ was “probably our best performance of the year”.
Foster said he believed his team took “a step up”.
Foster has lost nine of 25 matches in charge of the three-time world champions, while predecessor Steve Hansen suffered 10 defeats in 107 Tests.
An All Blacks assistant coach during the eight-year reign of Hansen, Foster was a controversial appointment ahead of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.
“It was a step up from our last series,” said Foster.
“The line-out worked well, our maul defence was good and our overall defence was pretty solid but the timing in terms of attack was a bit off.”
He said a string of penalties conceded by the All Blacks in the first 20 minutes had hurt his team.
“I felt we were not getting the rub of the green in the first 20 minutes, so that put us behind a little.”
He said the third quarter of the match, after the All Blacks were fortunate to trail only 3-10 at half-time, was critical.
“We had to get back into the game but all the Springboks did was carry hard and clean hard and earn a couple of penalties. Good on them, that is their game. It is a pressure game.”
Foster acknowledged that the intensity of the match played in front of a passionate sell-out home crowd of 42,367 had affected some of the new players in the touring squad.
“Some of our guys who are here for the first time – that is what you have to go through and experience.”
Foster said that although there was not much time before a second-round match against the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg next Saturday, he was confident of an improved performance.
“As the game unfolded, a few opportunities opened up. There were some handling errors but we made a few good strides. But we have to prove it next week.”
A win in the second Test may yet save Foster and give the NZ Rugby an out, but as far as many fans are concerned, Foster is a metaphorical dead man walking.
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* Meanwhile the under-fire All Black skipper, Cane, has refused to write off his team’s two-match series in South Africa, alleging that the fixing of a few small things can make all the difference in next Saturday’s Rugby Championship rematch in Johannesburg.\
With question marks have arisen over the All Blacks captaincy of Cane in the wake of last month’s home series defeat to Ireland, there will surely be further queries about his leadership role in the team following their latest setback.
Cane, though, attempted to spin a line of All Blacks positivity in his post-game flash TV interview.
Asked where is the confidence and self-belief in his team and whether they can come back in next weekend’s second fixture against the Springboks, the captain said: “I suppose from the outside looking in you could wonder if that was the case.
“But I can’t ask any more of the team in terms of the belief and the effort that they putting out there. We will fight to the last minute every time and there is absolute belief. It’s just small margins that apply at this level and a few small things we have got to fix can make a big difference.”
Cane had started the brief interview by congratulating the Springboks for their performance.
“I want to credit the Springboks and the way they played, particularly in the first half.
“They threw a heck of a lot at us. I thought we did well to absorb it but it took a lot out of us and they kept applying pressure. They were extremely good at the breakdown, led by Malcolm Marx on his 50th [Test appearance], and they disrupted a lot of our flow.
“The kicking game, the contestables, we knew they were coming.
“They probably won that battle as well. We are bitterly disappointed.
“We were really looking forward to playing South Africa over here, it had been a long time between games [2018 was their last visit]. To come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard really hurts.”
Asked what in particular had let them down, Cane added: “It’s hard when you don’t hold onto the ball for long and give away breakdown penalties.
“We were a little bit slow there tonight [Saturday] and it hurt us. Look, we will travel to Johannesburg tomorrow [Sunday] and start looking forward to the next Test and throw absolutely everything at that.”
Sources: AFP & RugbyPass