Cowan predicts "remarkable improvement"
July 24, 2011
Jimmy Cowan attacks the Fiji defence in Carisbrook © Getty Images
All Blacks scrum-half Jimmy Cowan is predicting a "remarkable improvement" in their performance when they take on South Africa in their opening Tri-Nations clash on Saturday.
The All Blacks beat Fiji 60-14 in Carisbrook on Friday but the players and coaches were far from satisfied with their overall display in their opening Test of the season. Their work at the lineouts, restarts and breakdown will come in for particular scrutiny over the next few days as they prepare to face South Africa, who lost to Australia in Sydney on Saturday. And Cowan insists the All Blacks are capable of making huge strides ahead of the Wellington clash.
"It was pleasing to get off on the right foot with a good win," he said. "To rack up 60 points is pleasing in a test match, but some of our fundamentals, our foundations, were still lacking in areas. But we've only had three or four training runs together, so that was expected.
"I think it's about building our game and I imagine we'll see a remarkable improvement over this week," said Cowan, who started the match against Fiji before being replaced 15 minutes into the second half.
Loose forward Jerome Kaino, himself a second half substitute, said skipper Richie McCaw had identified the need to improve their work at the breakdown and it was an area they would concentrate on ahead of the test in the capital.
"Fiji played really well slowing our ball down and we couldn't really get our game going effectively with the slow ball we were getting so that's a huge focus this week to be able to recycle our ball a lot better and hopefully get our game going," Kaino said.
The team were due to review the match against Fiji on Sunday and Kaino anticipated much of the focus would be on ensuring the side got quick ball against the weakened Springboks.
"I'm sure all the groups have got their views on how we can improve as a team," he said. "When you walk off the field you have that gut feeling on whether it was a good game or a bad game and where you can improve.
"I think Richie hit it on the head where we need to improve and where we need to get our game going."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton