Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Henry gets the boys to relax (
All Blacks coach Graham Henry has ordered his players to hang up their rugby boots and unfurl the fishing rods or golf clubs as they take a low key route into their biggest Test of the year to date.

By acknowledging his players are not robots, Henry hopes to have them fizzing at Absa Stadium on Sunday morning (NZT) in their bid to break an ordinary recent record in South Africa.

Tuesday in seaside Durban is set down as a day to hit the water or the fairways, with not a rugby ball, tape recorder or television camera in sight.

There were still jet lag issues for the New Zealanders, most of whom played a Test match on Saturday night then slept for just four hours, before an early morning wakeup call then 18 hours on a plane to South Africa via Sydney.

"We don't want to overdo it otherwise we'll be worse off. We've just got to be intelligent as to how we prepare," Henry said before a light training session in heavily overcast, windy weather on the manicured turf of the premier rugby college Greenwood High School.

Most of the buildup was worked on last week when most frontliners were rested from the Test against Canada in Hamilton.

There's plenty more riding on this Test, although Henry is intent on separating the Philips Tri Nations in upcoming weeks from rugby's ultimate prize going on the line at the World Cup in France this year.

"I can't remember when we've won here. We've won one of four I think since this management group's (Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith) been together," Henry said.

"It's obviously the biggest challenge that we face in rugby at the moment, which is stimulating."
The All Blacks have lost in South Africa once in each of the past three years, stretching back to Johannesburg in 2004. No other team have beaten them in that period.

Henry went for dry humour over caustic comments -- having zeroed in on negative French tactics and International Rugby Board scheduling in recent weeks -- at his team naming press conference.

He unveiled eight personnel and nine positional changes from last Saturday's 64-13 win over Canada.
Locking injury crisis aside, the team feature their top loose forward combination and front row, and probably their best backline.

There were bellows of laughter from the local press when Henry was asked about Springboks coach Jake White's claims that it was easier to win a World Cup than a Philips Tri Nations title.

"We find it bloody difficult. In fact I can't even remember when we won it. We've won a few Tri Nations but we haven't won too many of those rugby World Cups."

Henry still labelled the Philips Tri Nations the most demanding competition in world rugby but shied away from the theory that if either side won convincingly on Sunday it would deal a psychological World Cup blow to their opponents.

"It's a major international competition that's worth winning. In saying that the All Blacks won it in 1999 and 2003 and I don't think they won the World Cup in those years. I don't know if it's got anything to do with the World Cup, really."

South Africa are due to name their team late tomorrow night (NZT).
Mini "Oups moment" found on gettyimages :

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 19: Luke McAlister, captain of the All Blacks fires a Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun during a visit to a shooting range June 19, 2007 in Durban, South Africa
Richie won' t notice the mistake by Gettyimages since he was there too...

As for Piri, he enjoyed a more (let's say) "feminine" afternoon-rest...

Someone has to tell them that they have a match to play on Saturday....

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