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Ken Borland

Hansen not concerned with winning streak

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Ken

It’s been three long years since the All Blacks lost to the Springboks – and 22 Tests since their previous defeat against anyone (v England at Twickenham on 1 December 2012) – but their coach Steve Hansen is not as concerned with maintaining the winning streak as he is with delivering a quality performance on Saturday at Ellis Park.

Of course, he is in the lovely position of not having to worry if they lose on Saturday, while Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will bear the full brunt of the public’s obsession with beating the number one side in the world for the first time in six attempts.

“For us, it’s not about the winning streak but about the quality of performance, that’s hugely important. Our heads need to be in the right place, our preparation is about getting that right, and then Saturday is fun time.

“But it’s no fun if you don’t play well. But we have a quite a bit of talent in this group and if we play as well as we can, then it will take a good team to beat us,” Hansen said on Thursday.

With some people, including former coach Graham Henry, warning that the All Blacks are setting themselves up for a fall at the World Cup, there have even been suggestions that defeat might be good for New Zealand. Hansen dismissed such notions.

“I’ve never concurred with people saying you need to lose to learn. It hurts to lose, so why do you want to go through that to learn? We learn when we review games that maybe we should have lost, but we won.

“People say sometimes you have to get burnt to learn, but you can tell a flame is hot, you don’t need to put your hand in it,” Hansen said.

The All Blacks coach said Saturday’s Test would be decided by the tight fives and injury has forced the visitors to go with relative rookies at loosehead prop and tighthead lock.

Wyatt Crockett withdrew from selection with bad cuts to the face and has been replaced by Crusaders prop Joe Moody, who comes to his first Test start with a junior commonwealth games bronze medal in wrestling to his name.

Jeremy Thrush will partner with Sam Whitelock in the second row after Brodie Retallick failed to recover from concussion.

The 26-year-old Moody seemed pretty relaxed and was even able to make a subtle dig at his opposite number, the vastly-experienced Jannie du Plessis.

“Jannie is a bit different to what we normally get in New Zealand, he attacks the hooker much more, while our tightheads normally scrum straighter. But we’ve done our homework and I’m sure the scrums will go well,” Moody said.

The All Blacks’ winning streak is about thorough preparation and supreme conditioning, but it’s also about the character of the players under pressure, as Hansen stressed.

“We’ve been able to keep our composure in really tight situations, but we’ve had a bit of luck as well. We practise the moment without pressure so we can do it under pressure. As a group, this team has shown it is mentally strong and has great composure,” Hansen said.

All Blacks team: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Malakai Fekitoa, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw, 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Samuel Whitelock, 4-Jeremy Thrush, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Keven Mealamu, 1-Joe Moody. Reserves – 16-Dane Coles, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Steven Luatua, 20-Liam Messam, 21-Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22-Colin Slade, 23-Ryan Crotty.

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