All Blacks coach Steve Hansen emphatically ended the phoney war that has been going on this week between his team and the Springboks when he said: “Let’s be honest, they want to rip our heads off and if we are not in a similar mindset by kick-off, we are going to be in trouble.
Heyneke Meyer, in particular has been lavish in his praise of the All Blacks ahead of tomorrow’s huge World Cup semi-final at Twickenham, at every opportunity telling anyone who will listen that they are the best team the world has seen, while his players, taking their cue from the coach, have been equally complimentary towards their traditional rivals.
Hansen said the All Blacks were not fooled.
“Heyneke is a cunning devil and it has been a clear tactic of his to try and kill us with kindness this week, but we are not a falling for it,” the deadpan Hansen said. “We know that behind closed doors they are saying something else.
“One of their young locks (Lood de Jager) let something slip in an interview yesterday when he said that they don’t fear u, and respect us but not all that much (in fact De Jager said: ‘Other teams make the mistake of respecting the All Blacks too much’) and that comment would have had Heyneke annoyed because it does not fit in with his pyschological strategy for this week, which is to try get us to think that all we have to do is turn up and we will win, while he is whipping his guys into a frenzy, telling them that they have to play their best game ever to beat the beat team ever, and so on …”
There have indeed been a lot of “evers” from Meyer in his gushing praise, some of it deserving of a Kiwi team that are clear favourites for the game, especially after having thumped France by 62 points in a quarter-final last week, while the Boks had to fight to the death for a narrow win over Wales.
Hansen admitted that their repressible nine-try romp had made this a difficult week for him as a coach, because everybody is talking up his team.
“It was much easier for me when were being told that we were struggling through our Pool games,” Hansen said wryly. “The hardest thing about this week is coming off the back of a great win, with everyone getting carried away and making outrageous statements (Meyer describing the All Blacks as the best team the world has ever seen). We have tried to put a full stop on that performance otherwise we are going to struggle. If we have got that right, and go onto the field with at least the same battle-readiness that the Boks will have, then possibly we will have another great performance, whether that is good enough to beat Boks we have to wait and see.”
Hansen said that his team’s performance against the French had been born out of desperation.
“We desperately did not want to go home. Last week was the start of the knock-out phases and it was either stand up and be countered or go home,” Hansen said. “This week it is the same — sorry it is worse, you don’t go home, you have to stick around for that other game (next Friday’s playoff for third spot between the losing semi-finalists). We don’t want to be involved in that game and neither do South Africa.”
In one last dig at Meyer. Hansen poked fun at the oft repeated line from the Springbok players this week that they don’t fear the All Blacks.
“It is a stupid man who goes into a fight and does not fear his opponent, if that is the case you are either fighting the wrong opponent or are thick,” Hansen said. “Fear heightens your emotions and makes you deliver that performance you want. There is fear for us going into this game. Fear that if we lose we will not be in the final.”
by Mike Greenaway
Leave a Reply