Head coach Ian Foster says the embattled All Blacks will overcome a notoriously slow start to the season and bounce back to form when New Zealand battle the Springboks in the Republic.
The All Blacks travel to South Africa to begin their Rugby Championship campaign in a two-Test tilt with the Boks, but set against the backdrop of a managerial shake-up following the historic series loss against Ireland.
While Foster has retained his job, forwards coach John Plumtree and attack coach Brad Mooar have been fired and Jason Ryan from the Crusaders brought in as forwards boss.
On Sky Sport‘s ‘The Breakdown’, Foster insisted that the Kiwis needed to put their foot down against the Boks and make the progress he believes they are capable of despite the backroom staff drama.
“It’s not the first time we’ve been slow starters in July. I hate saying that, but it is reality,” Foster said. “We’ve got to speed up the gains we want. We’re a wounded All Blacks team. We’ve got a job to do over there and we actually want to play a game New Zealanders are proud of.
“We’re connecting the dots. We’ve got to do it quicker. There are a couple of achilles heels in our game that we dealt with well in the Irish series but they came to bite us in that third Test. We’ve got to sort those things out and if we can – and I have utter belief in the direction this group is going.
“But we have the Rugby Championship; we’ve got to hoe into our work, we’ve got to get away from feeling oppressed by all the tension that’s out there and we understand that people are frustrated but, at the end of the day, that doesn’t help us.
“We need clear heads, a desire to go and play, and fundamentally start doing the things we know we’re good at.”
Foster also confirmed he has the support of the dressing room after asking senior players to assess the current situation the team find themselves in and how to turn it around.
He added: “That’s one of the questions that I got them to talk about. I’m not in the room; it was just them and with all the noise around – there’s been a lot of people putting me under pressure for a long, long time so in many ways this is not new to the group.
“But part of my job is to go back and get an honest appraisal out of them about how I’m going and getting the belief factor. I’ve had it loud and clear from them, but I also know with that comes a massive responsibility. That’s only one variable.
“I believe I’ve got the group; now I’ve got to deliver the plan. Part of the changes we’ve made are about making sure I’m not taking for granted their belief in the direction I’m heading, but I’m also listening to them and making the changes we all feel we need for this team.”