All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen sang his players’ praises after their 41-13 victory over the Springboks in Christchurch on Saturday.
The world champions were in superb form, outscoring their opponents by six tries to one and the result means they cannot be overtaken on the Rugby Championship table.
Hansen said his team has progressed quicker than he expected in the redevelopment phase when they lost the servies of legendary players like Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Ma’s Nonu and Conrad Smith, who all retired from Test rugby after last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“But what I’ve been so pleased with is how Reado [captain Kieran Read] has stepped up to the plate, and his leadership group have stepped up to the plate, and taken over, and probably gone to another level because they’ve been open and flexible in their thinking and that’s allowed them to lead subtlely different to the guys that had left who did such a wonderful job for us for four years,” said Hansen.
The All Blacks showed against the Boks that they are still setting high standards but are also determined to improve with each outing
“We’ve gone out to play a game that we can be proud of and not go away from the core roles we have to do so it’s really nice to hear people compliment that the set piece is going well and that we’re also playing a brand of rugby we can be proud of,” added Hansen.
Hansen expressed his delight with his team’s effort against the Boks but admitted it wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“As we rolled into it, it got better and better and [we] scored some nice tries,” he explained.
“They’re a formidable opponent.”
Hansen praised hooker Dane Coles and scrum-half Aaron Smith for the way they bounced back from their performances against Argentina in Hamilton lastv weekend.
“We know they are class players so they are not going to have too many roughies, you can excuse them occasionally but they bounced back as you’d expect them too and played really, really well,” he said.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read said they had got what they expected from the Boks in the opening half, especially with the new players in the side.
“From our point of view it was great that we brought a lot of intensity early and were able to match their passion right from the kick-off.”