• ‘Boks want to rip our heads off’

    Steve Hansen believes that the Springboks’ praise for the All Blacks is nothing more than a cunning ploy, reports JON CARDINELLI in Weybridge.

    The All Blacks, through their head coach, have responded to the Bok charm offensive. On Thursday, Hansen said that the coaches and management aren’t taking the compliments to heart.

    There is a healthy respect between two teams that have enjoyed some epic battles over the past four years. And yet there is an understanding that both sets of players and coaches would do anything to gain an edge ahead of the coming World Cup semi-final.

    Earlier this week, Meyer described the All Blacks as the greatest team ever. The Boks coach talked up the skill levels of the New Zealand players and the nous of the management staff. Perhaps what Meyer was really saying is that all the pressure is now on the All Blacks to win the semi-final.

    Hansen set the tone for Thursday’s press conference before a question was even asked. He said Meyer’s attempts to ‘kill the All Blacks with kindness’ were clever, but not good enough.

    Hansen is expecting the Boks to be at their belligerent best at Twickenham on Saturday. He isn’t expecting an easy game.

    ‘While some of what Heyneke is saying is true about the mutual respect, you can’t believe all of it,’ the All Blacks coach said. ‘What he would have said to his players would have been very different. They will be looking to rip our heads off this Saturday.

    ‘We won’t get caught up in the praise. I know Heyneke can be a cunning guy, and what he is saying is just a tactic.

    'We put a full stop after the recent performance [a nine-try 62-13 win against France]. There’s so much to play for in the coming match. The winner progresses to the final. The loser goes home … actually they don’t, they play in that other game [the third-place play-off] which is even worse.

    'We will be looking to produce another big performance this weekend. Whether that will be good enough to beat the Boks or not, we will have to wait and see.’

    All week, the Boks have spoken about their respect for this All Blacks group and what it’s achieved since winning the 2011 World Cup. At the same time, the Bok players have declared that they have no fear of the New Zealanders.

    Hansen challenged this view on Thursday. The All Blacks coach went as far to describe the Boks’ fearless attitude ahead of such a big match as ‘stupid’.

    ‘If there’s no fear, it means you’re either in the wrong sort of fight or you’re stupid,’ he said. ‘That fear helps in these situations, it helps deliver the fight that’s needed for success.

    ‘Again, we know they will be looking to rip our heads off. We’re not reading too much into what’s being said in the media. We know that if we don’t bring our A game, we won’t progress to the final.’

    Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

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    Jon Cardinelli