Hansen full of admiration for Pumas
September 8, 2012
New Zealand's Liam Messam is wrapped up by the Argentina defence © Getty Images
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was full of praise for Argentina after they pushed his side all the way in a bruising Rugby Championship contest in Wellington.
The All Blacks made it three wins from three in this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy with a 21-5 victory at a wind and rain-swept Westpac Stadium but they had to earn it the hard way with the result only confirmed thanks to two late tries from wingers Cory Jane and Julian Savea.
The elements and near-constant pressure from the Pumas forced countless mistakes from the hosts but Hansen refused to dwell on his players' shortcomings and instead opted to applaud the efforts of their rivals.
"In our first half we tried to play way too much rugby for the conditions. We tried to move the ball at times we should have held on to it," he said. "Our ball security wasn't that great. But part of that was the intensity the Argentineans brought.
"They're a welcome addition to this competition. In years to come we're going to look back on this first year and say this is the beginning of something new. They're only going to get better and better and they're a very good side at the moment. They're probably one of the best defensive teams in the world."
Hansen was happier with his side's second half display. "We executed pretty good and our ball security was a lot better," he said. "We ran better lines and were more effective in the cleanout and therefore put more pressure on Argentina with the speed of our attack, and were possibly unlucky not to score another couple of tries."
Former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry is currently working with Argentina as a consultant but Hansen dismissed the suggestion that the Pumas' strong showing was due to his former boss's presence. "I didn't see Graham out there at all," said Hansen. "Argentina have been a very good defensive side for a long time. Their systems are very good, and they've had those systems for a long time.
"We've talked a lot about Graham but the people who should be getting credit are the coaches that are there now. Santiago [Phelan] has done a great job with this team, not only this year. He's a very clever man and clearly he's got some good staff working with him."
Phelan himself refused to get carried away with his side's performance that followed a draw with South Africa last time out. "This game gave us confidence because of the way the players gave 100 percent and that is very important for us," he told reporters. "We are looking forward to Australia ...(but) every game is different. We have to keep on improving because we are playing the best teams in the world and we have to keep working to have a good game."
It was a sentiment echoed by his captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. "Everyone from the coach, the union, the players, we have done a lot of work to be here," said Fernandez Lobbe. "We know the level of the opposition in these six games (of the championship) so we prepared according to that.
"We are happy with that but we want to keep on improving. Our goal is to match these three teams because we want to get better and make everyone proud of this Argentinian team."
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