All Blacks head coach Ian Foster says his side is “desperate” to perform well against the Springboks in their two-Test tour of South Africa in the early stages of the Rugby Championship.
Foster has been under tremendous pressure after the All Blacks were beaten 2-1 by Ireland in the July internationals, who became the first northern hemisphere side to win a series on New Zealand soil.
Despite calls for Foster to be removed from his position, the coach remains in charge and has retained Sam Cane as the captain, who has also been under scrutiny of late.
“We’re desperate,” Foster said to the media.
“We’re desperate to perform against South Africa, and you have to be, but it’d be much nicer hearing us talk about a great performance over there rather than what we’re putting up with now.
“There’s a lot riding on it, and what’s riding on it is that we want to get our games going to the levels that we want, and that we want our fanbase and our country to be proud of us, clearly, but what an exciting challenge.
“We’re going to South Africa, we’ve got two tests in this Rugby Championship, we’ve got both tests away against South Africa.
“Couldn’t be harder in many ways, but when your back is against the wall a little bit, then this is a great place for the All Blacks to be, and we’ve got to respond.”
The Springboks come off a positive win against Wales in their three-Test series where head coach Jacques Nienaber managed to rotate hugely within the squad, changing 14 players for the second Test before reverting to a more familiar line-up.
Foster knows it will be a physical challenge, as is the standard against the Springboks, and the All Blacks will have to find a way to mitigate their powerful forwards.
“Clearly made a lot of changes in that second test, and you could see them resting some players, but building through that third test,” Foster said of Nienaber’s side.
“They’re physical, they’ve got some areas of their game where they really are focused on, particularly around the mauling game, the driving game, and that’s an area that hurt us in that third test, so we’ve got some clear areas we’ve got to improve.”