‘Boks have exciting young backs’

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the Springboks are on course to be a force at the World Cup, writes RYAN VREDE in Johannesburg.

In the post-match press conference Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said that despite his team's defeat, their second consecutive in the Rugby Championship, he feels they are moving in the right direction. He intimated that their problems were remediable and added that it would take relatively small improvements and the return of some injured players to turn results around.

This is unlikely to ease the pain of the bulk of Springbok supporters, who've witnessed yet another home defeat against the team's traditional rivals. However, when asked for his perspective of where the Boks were in their development (in the context of their World Cup challenge), Hansen concurred with Meyer.

'I'd say the last three games [between the teams] over here could have gone either way,' Hansen said. 'They're developing a style of play that's going to be difficult to combat. They have some very exciting young backs and a lot of pace in their backline and some brutal forwards.

'Heyneke has done a good job of developing [the team] over the last two or three years. They're the No 2-ranked side and as you saw tonight there's nothing between the top team and the second-placed team.'

Hansen pointed to the period around the 60-minute mark where the All Blacks, reduced to 14 men, absorbed enormous pressure before escaping their 22m area as being the defining moment in the match.

'We defended with all our hearts. Had they scored there it would've been hard to come back. We showed mental fortitude to hold on, despite being down to seven men in the pack [Sam Whitelock had been yellow-carded]. To get out of that position was critical.'

Skipper Richie McCaw built on that response.

'It's not always going to go your way for 80 minutes,' he said. 'But we've been in those situations before, so that helped us. After that we had one or two chances and made them count. We're proud of that but not the overall performance.'

Photo: Marco Longari/AFP Photo

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