The All Blacks were on a charm offensive towards their World Cup semi-final opponents on Saturday, the Springboks, even before the dust had settled on their 62-13 annihilation of France in Cardiff at the weekend.
“We are not overly excited about the result against France,” said coach Steve Hansen, a renowned proponent of understatement. “All we have done is earn the right to play South Africa, a country we play all the time (in the Rugby Championship) and whom we deeply respect — they are one of the best teams in the world, they have great players across the paddock, and away from the game we are good mates with them, so it is going to be a heck of a contest.”
Hansen said that the historical rivalry between the teams was undiminished, despite the All Blacks having won eight of the last 10 matches between the countries.
“The rivalry between New Zealand and South Africa goes back way before I was born,” Hansen said. “It has been an epic struggle between these countries for a hundred years and we still see the Boks as the team that gives us the most grief. They remain our traditional rivals.”
Hansen said that the rout of the French had done little more than provide a passage into the next round of the World Cup.
“It was a special performance, we accept that. There is a difference between pool play and knock-out rugby, which creates an edge of on its own — if you don’t turn up you go home,” Hansen said “We turned up, our attitude was right, and when you add talent to that, you can do good things.
“But at this stage of the World Cup, all we have done is earn the right to turn up at training on Monday. We have not won anything,” Hansen said. “All we have accomplished is a chance to play in a semi-final.
“We are happy but come Monday we have to start again,” he said. “I have learned the hard way that you do not dare get ahead of yourself. We played grand final rugby against France and we have to play a grand final rugby against the Boks.
“ It is all about mental preparation, and we know what space we have to be in to beat the Boks,” Hansen said. “We know them only too well. They will believe they can beat us and if we are not 100 percent on top of our game, that will happen.”
by Mike Greenaway
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