Mbombela – For nearly a month now the rugby world has settled on the word “desperate” to describe the mood of the All Blacks ahead of their two-match series against the Springboks but their coach, the embattled Ian Foster, begs to differ.
Foster, after naming a starting team that has four new faces, three of them in the tight five, says his team is not beset with “angst”, as a Kiwi reporter put it to him, but is rather in a state of “reflection” ahead of Saturday’s match at Mbombela Stadium.
Wow! And there were all four million Kiwis and their sheep believing that the All Blacks were frantically trying to fix the wounds inflicted by the Irish, but instead they are, well, reflecting …
“Look, we don’t like losing, just like everyone,” said Foster, a head coach reportedly one defeat from joining his already axed assistants, John Plumtree and Brad Mooar. “And that creates an edge in the group and a lot of reflection amongst the players in terms of their roles and how they can be better.
“So I would use the word reflection, not angst, and then dovetail that with where we are and who we are playing against and it adds up … it’s a great concoction. It is a really clear challenge ahead of us.”
Inevitably, Foster was asked just what the All Blacks have been doing to fix things at their sports resort in the Lowveld — they are at an exclusive facility that combines the luxury of an oasis with a training facility.
Foster, though, feels that not a great deal is wrong, suggesting that his team are simply slow starters to an international season, as they often are: “We have never been a great July team, it is the start of our year just like it is for South Africa, and they will also want to improve on their first three Tests of the year.
“Much has been made of our last series (against Ireland) but we are in the process of putting blocks in place for the year … Did we get everything right in that series? No, we didn’t but I still have a lot of faith in the areas where we want to grow our game,” Foster said.
“To get back on track, it is not a matter of bringing in 10 new things — just a couple, and then also hone in on some things that need to be better.”
It was put to Foster that the Springboks are one-trick ponies who are very good at their one trick, and to render those ponies lame, all the Kiwis have to do is man up in the forward battle.
“It is a fallacy that the Boks have just one trick,” Foster said. “What the Boks do, they do really well. You do not become world champions if you are not proficient in a number of areas.
“They are a great team but we must not get hung up on that and our mindset is to play our game, we know we can play better and you don’t do that by focusing on the opposition.
“As for manning up? We will always man up … that is not an issue for the All Blacks. It is a case of being smart and being physical.”