All Blacks wary of wounded Boks
July 11, 2010
New Zealand's Kieran Read celebrates scoring a try during the clash at Eden Park © Getty Images
New Zealand are primed for a fierce backlash from South Africa following their crushing 32-12 victory over their old rivals in Auckland.
The All Blacks outmuscled and outplayed the Springboks in the opening clash of this year' Tri-Nations - outscoring the visitors four tries to none at Eden Park. The two sides meet again next weekend in Wellington but New Zealand coach Graham Henry has warned his players to expect a much-improved showing from the defending champions at the Westpac Stadium.
"We're surprised by the magnitude of the result," said Henry in the wake of his side's impressive showing. "The score-line was blown out of proportion. I'm sure things will be more realistic next week. We'll look at what the Springboks brought to the game that we didn't think they were going to bring. We'll get our feet back on the ground and see what alterations we need to make.
"They'll be a wounded animal next week, and they'll play accordingly. They're a quality side with bright players and they're well coached. They'll improve immensely, so it will be a more difficult game (in Wellington)."
The Springboks will be without lock Bakkies Botha, who has been ruled out of the rest of the Tri-Nations after being handed a nine-week ban for a head-butt on halfback Jimmy Cowan. The All Blacks could also have players sidelined, although through injury.
There is particular concern over utility back Richard Kahui, who suffered a shoulder injury after coming off the reserves bench for the final quarter. "We are not quite sure how bad it is," said Henry. "He's had them in the past and it doesn't sound good."
More would be known after Kahui had a scan tomorrow. Kahui came on for winger John Rokocoko, who twinged a hamstring, while Cowan had an abdominal strain. Both Rokocoko and Cowan would be checked again tomorrow.
While delighted with the performance of his players, Henry admitted to being surprised by the margin of victory and he expected "things will be more realistic" in Wellington. There had been an edge at training last week and the expectation from the coaching staff had been that a good display was on the cards, but "the scoreline got blown out of proportion from our point of view".
He noted that the Springboks were winning the second half 9-7 until prop Tony Woodcock's bonus-point try in the dying stages. Meanwhile, Henry believed the new law interpretations brought in this year had improved the game. They had made it better to watch, better to coach and better to play.
"It's not a lottery any more at the tackle and the high ball is not as significant as it was last year," he said. "I think the correct interpretation of the law, which is always the way it was meant to be interpreted, has been a real asset to the game."
A common sentiment from the New Zealand players last week was that they were itching to end the long wait they had endured to try to put right their three losses to South Africa last year.
Springboks skipper John Smit said there would be plenty of motivation in his own camp after the manner of the defeat at Eden Park. "We certainly didn't rock up, the lights were out," he said. "We've got a lot of work on." Among the few positives for his side was that they couldn't do any worse, he said.
A feature of the match was how the All Blacks managed to turn the tables in the lineouts, one of the strengths of the Springboks game and where lock Victor Matfield usually reigned supreme. Smit put his hand up when assessing what had gone wrong, saying his throwing in hadn't been the best in training and that came through in the game.
"They got a lot more people in the air and that obviously puts a lot more pressure on," the 97-test hooker said. "But I think Victor will be a little frustrated with the kinds of balls I was putting in to the guys."
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor