JOHANNESBURG – The Rugby Championship title may be wrapped up, but there will still be plenty of pressure on the All Blacks when they face the Springboks in their final match of the competition at Loftus Versfeld.
Coach Steve Hansen said there was always pressure on the All Blacks to win - and win well - and it would be no different this weekend. In fact, the 34-36 defeat inflicted on his team by the Boks in Wellington two weeks ago made winning this week all the more essential.
“The All Blacks live under constant pressure to win,” said Hansen moments after arriving in Johannesburg from Buenos Aires where the All Blacks bagged the competition title with a hard-fought win against Argentina at the weekend.
“The life of an All Black is about nothing else but having to win. The expectations are we have to win every Test match, and win it well. In that regard, nothing changes (this week).
“It’s always important to not lose two in a row. The rivalry between the teams is a strong one and we enjoy it, and so far the Springboks are 1-0 up this year. We need to make sure we put out a performance we’re proud of.”
The All Blacks will surely go out to correct the result from Wellington, something Hansen admitted still hurt, but was not at the forefront of his team’s thoughts this week. “Like any hurt, time allows it to go away,” said Hansen. “But, it’s there, and it would be no different for the Boks (if they’d lost) ... when they get beaten it hurts.”
All Blacks skipper Kieran Read was already in Johannesburg when his team-mates arrived, the No 8 having skipped the trip to Argentina. The only other squad member who didn’t feature in the Buenos Aires Test - utility back Damian McKenzie, who returned home last week for personal reasons - is expected to also team up with his squad mates early this week.