Ian Foster: Bok loss was All Blacks’ ‘most improved performance’ this year

Dylan Coetzee

All Blacks coach Ian Foster believes his team produced their “most improved performance” of 2022 despite losing 26-10 to the Springboks in Nelspruit.

The result means that New Zealand has lost three Tests in a row and will slide further down the world rankings after being outplayed by a clinical South African side.

“Most improved performance”

Foster and his men have been under tremendous pressure coming into the Rugby Championship after a series loss against Ireland. Despite losing to the world champions, the coach believes some areas of the All Blacks‘ game have “shifted”, but their timing was out on attack.

“I felt it was probably our most improved performance this year,” said Foster. “I felt in some areas we really shifted our game forward. In a game dominated by defence, we defended well, but our timing was out on the attack side and we’re going to have to have a look at that.”

Foster believes the All Blacks managed to combat the Springboks‘ driving game and believes his team is working very hard to get back to good form but was a “bit over-eager” on the day.

“We always knew it was going to be tough, and we felt that tonight. But we’ve got to take some things out of there we’ve made some big shifts in. We nullified a large part of their driving game, defensively we made some shifts and in that last quarter we were opening things up but started to snatch at a couple of balls which is frustrating,” he added.

“We’re coming off a lost test series, and there’s a lot of noise around this team now. We’re trying our best to just focus on our performance, but you feel that. When a team is working really hard to get its game to a level it wants, sometimes you get a bit over-eager, and there was some of that today.

“We’ve got to look at today, and just calm down and say we’ve got one more chance at Ellis Park to win a trophy that’s pretty special to us. They had the first bite at it and we’ve got to respond. Part of that is going to be absorbing the lessons, relax and take a moment on the ball and get our skillsets right.”

Outside noise

The 57-year-old says his time must not be immersed in the outside noise and reiterated that he felt the All Blacks showed signs of improvement.

“It’s not a matter of shutting it out – it’s there all the time. If you spend too much time immersed in it, it doesn’t do the team any good. We know we’ve had a couple of losses, [but] in all honesty I thought we shifted up a couple of cogs in this test, and made some significant improvement,” he said.

“We’re excited about going to Ellis Park … losing today means we’ll pull out the positives and give it everything we’ve got which is what people should expect out of an All Blacks team.”

Foster understands the frustration with the All Blacks’ performance but insists panicking is not the right move.

“I know people are frustrated, and we’re frustrated with the results,” he added, “But you don’t achieve growth if you get too panicky and start making dramatic changes and put too much pressure on players. We want them to feel the pressure tonight, understand what it’s like playing test matches over here, and we’ve got to be sharper in what we do.

“I fully believe in the skillsets of the players we’ve got.”

READ MORE: Rugby Championship: Clinical Springboks draw first blood against All Blacks