Wellington, Sydney: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has expressed his disappointment at the amount of errors his side have committed in their Rugby Championship matches but is confident they will be back to their best when they get to the World Cup in Japan.
Hansen’s side drew 16-16 with South Africa at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday after replacement scrum half Herschel Jantjies scored a try in the final minute of play, following an error by his opposite Aaron Smith.
The All Blacks had struggled to beat Argentina 20-16 last week in Buenos Aires and the clash with the Springboks was seen as an early indicator of where both sides were ahead of their World Cup opener on Sept. 21.
“If you look at history, our June series we are always rusty,” Hansen said of the performance that was blighted by numerous handling errors and timing issues.
“We scramble away and scramble away and don’t play great rugby. This is our June series. We have said that the Rugby Championship is not our priority. The World Cup is.
“We’re reasonably happy, not so much with the performance but with what we are seeing and where we can go. That’s the important thing.
“Whilst a lot of people won’t be happy with our mistakes, we aren’t either but we also are seeing enough things in our game to get quietly excited.” There were signs in the second half of the match the All Blacks were able to find space out wide against an aggressive and fast Springboks defensive line and they also made numerous line breaks up the middle of the field.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus, who like Hansen is using the Rugby Championship to fine tune his selections and trial tactics, said his side had been lucky to snatch the draw but also felt there was still plenty of improvement in them.
“We certainly take a lot of positives out of this because they are the world’s number one team, they are the benchmark,” Erasmus said. “We take a lot of belief out of this game.
“There are a lot of things we tried. Whilst we put out a very good team we were experimenting a little bit and you do lose a bit of rhythm when you do that.
“At one stage We did look a little one dimensional on attack but I guess that was the result of trying to win the match, while building towards the World Cup.”
In Sydney, Australia held off a late fightback from Argentina to secure a 16-10 victory in a scrappy Rugby Championship contest on Saturday.
Winger Reece Hodge scored Australia’s only try in the first half but Pumas number eight Facundo Isa crashed over with six minutes on the clock to set up a tense finish.
The home defence held firm, however, to secure the Wallabies only a fourth victory in their last 14 tests and extend Argentina’s losing streak in internationals to seven matches.
With New Zealand and South Africa having drawn 16-16 earlier, the Wallabies could now win the Rugby Championship for the first time since 2015 if they can beat the All Blacks in their final match of the tournament.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 16
Australia 16 Argentina 10