All Blacks coach expects a tight run in clash with the Boks

New Zealand All Blacks' head coach Steve Hansen Picture: YUYA SHINO / REUTERS
New Zealand All Blacks’ head coach Steve Hansen

History, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen reminded yesterday, suggests that the Springboks will again run his team close when they clash in the Rugby Championship in Christchurch tomorrow.

Rarely, however, have the Springboks arrived on New Zealand shores with their prospects as gloomy as this week.

As portents go, three wins from six tests are more grim than great, but Hansen knows the Boks grow an arm and a leg with they play the old foe.

The Kiwi coach backed up his argument by pointing to recent history.

“While we’ve had a good run of victories, there hasn’t been a lot in it.

“In the last four tests against them there was only one try in it,” he said.

Coetzee undoubtedly holds the Springbok coaching reins at the most challenging juncture in the team’s history.

But while the pressure has mounted, he is not displaying any signs that he is about to yield to the pressure.

The mercury may be set to drop further in Canterbury in the test lead-up, but Coetzee is warming to the challenge.

Meanwhile, Hansen is expecting fire and brimstone.

“While they are not getting the results they would like, they are a pretty good side on paper – a very, very good side.

“They have their backs against the wall. They will be desperate and they will be hungry. That makes them a difficult opponent.

“If we were in their situation I know how desperate we’ll be. When the Boks don’t play well, people from the past become rent-a-quotes.

“You also know they are going to be physical and if they were told to rip our heads off, that might be the case.”

What has not helped Hansen are former All Blacks coach Graham Henry’s remarks that the Boks have been woeful.

It is sure to have penetrated at least one pair of Bok ears.

“Thanks, Graham,” Hansen noted. “I won’t [call them] woeful. History tells us regardless of what either nation has been doing prior to a test match, the games are always tight and tough.

“Both teams have a responsibility to send their respective nations a message about unity and togetherness.

“We enjoy playing them and they enjoy playing us. [The] teams respect each other for what they are and who they are.

“We are expecting them to front up and they’ve picked the best team they possibly can. Accordingly they will perform well,” Hansen said.

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