Sportal.co.nz - (4/07/2010)
An old-fashioned sense of determination against the traditional foe of South Africa has emerged as the All Blacks look to the first of two home Tests against the Springboks.
All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw, and many of his senior team-mates, are not used to the feeling of having lost three successive Tests to South Africa as happened last year and there is a steely desire to turn those results around in this year's Tri Nations.
There was a feeling that last year the side never performed like it felt it could have during the Tri Nations games with the Springboks while this season there was some renewed confidence in the side.
"The Africans are a good team, but they are not a team that is unbeatable either. From our point of view we want to go out and play some good rugby," McCaw said.
In the Tests against Ireland and Wales the side had played some good rugby in parts, but putting the good parts together for most of the games was the aim of the side.
"If we can do that I think we will have a good chance," he said.
It was always a physical challenge playing South Africa which was a side that did not make a lot of mistakes.
"They don't play as much rugby as we or the Australians do, but what they do, they do very well. They like the set piece and they like to build pressure and force you into mistakes. That's something that perhaps last year we didn't deal with that well.
"Sometimes you have just got to put that pressure back on them and I think in the couple of games they lost last year teams got into them and unsettled them and were able to get their game going.
"I think that's what we've got to make sure we do next week," he said.
In the Tri Nations both South Africa and Australia were sides who could make All Blacks mistakes costly and it was important to be patient in assessing the risk factor when making a choice. McCaw said the Bulls and Stormers had shown an ability to mix their game in the Super 14 between kicking and running but there were opportunities that cropped up when you defended well against them.
"We find that if you use the ball and you don't get it quite right and you turn it over, that is when you are most unstructured in defence. At the end of the day it [defence] is half the game and you have got to get that right.
"I think where we are at there is reward for good positive play and ability to use the ball and hold onto it, there is still a contest if you get it right to," he said.
Last year the whole side was frustrated against South Africa because it never got its game going, was possibly beaten to the punch and out-muscled and were trapped at the wrong end of the field quite regularly which made it tough on everyone.
"I got a bit frustrated about that and hopefully we're a bit better this year," he said.
It would be up to the senior players to stand up and lead by example, as had been the case in the first half against Wales in Dunedin in June.
"We've got two home Tests and if we get two wins here it sets you off pretty well. If we don't it's tough to win the thing. We've got to win them and when you break down that we have got to get our performances right. I think we've got the ability, we've just to make sure we do it for long periods in the game," he said.