The All Blacks’ unbeaten record will not impact on their motivation for the Ellis Park Test nor their desire to win the 2015 World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry made headlines recently when he suggested that it would be a good thing for the All Blacks to lose at least once before the 2015 World Cup.
In the lead-up to the 2011 global tournament, Henry’s All Blacks side lost to the Springboks as well as the Wallabies. He feels that those losses were a blessing in disguise, as it pushed the All Blacks to lift their game and ultimately win the Webb Ellis Cup.
Since Hansen has taken the reins as head coach, the All Blacks have lost just once, to England in December 2012. They’ve remained undefeated for the past two seasons, and recently clinched their third successive Rugby Championship title.
If the Boks don’t beat them this Saturday, the All Blacks may very well maintain their unbeaten record into next year and in the buildup to the 2015 World Cup.
On Thursday, Hansen said there was a strong desire to not only maintain that proud record, but continue to grow as a unit.
‘If we look back at the past few months, there have been a few games we could very well have lost,’ said Hansen. ‘It’s been good to see this team stepping up in those situations. Mentally, it’s a very strong group.
‘I disagree with the theory that you have to lose to learn. In those games where we almost lost, we learned a great deal. Think of it this way, do you need to put your hand in the fire to know that it’s hot? No.’
The Boks will be desperate for victory this Saturday, as they are yet to record a win against the All Blacks under Heyneke Meyer. Hansen said the All Blacks won’t want for motivation either.
‘We’re desperate to play well. It’s about the quality of performance. We want to play to our potential.
‘I was impressed with what I saw from the Boks [last Saturday],’ he added. ‘The brutality of that clash was like something from an All Blacks versus Boks Test. The Wallabies have improved, but they simply couldn’t stay with the Boks at the end.’
Another defeat for the Boks would see Meyer’s charges finishing the Rugby Championship with a record of three wins and three losses. Some might see that as a regression, considering the Boks won four out of six in 2013.
Hansen, however, feels the Boks are on the right track, and that Meyer is the right man to take the South African team forward.
‘I don’t see it as them being under pressure [ahead of the game at Ellis Park],’ he said. ‘They lost only two games last year. They’re playing really well, and they always push us.
'The scoreline [over the past few years] may not always reflect that, but they have moved forward. I don’t know who is saying that Heyneke is under pressure. They should be patting him on the back and telling him to keep up the good work, because he’s the best coach they’ve got.’
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