CAPE TOWN – Whoever wins the Rugby Championship clash between the All Blacks and the Springboks in Wellington won’t automatically be favourites for their Rugby World Cup showdown in Japan.
That was the view of New Zealand coach Steve Hansen on Monday ahead of the Westpac Stadium encounter on Saturday (9.35am SA time).
The All Blacks are licking their wounds somewhat after coming through the wringer against Argentina in a 20-16 victory in Buenos Aires at the weekend.
In contract, the Boks played some vibrant rugby in a 35-17 bonus-point win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park.
In addition, Rassie Erasmus sent most of his first-choice players to New Zealand last Thursday already in the hope that they will be fresh enough to clinch a second successive triumph in the Kiwi capital – having won 36-34 last year.
A more important game awaits on 21 September in Yokohama, where the two nations will start their World Cup campaigns.
Hansen, though, doesn’t believe that this weekend’s match will have too much bearing on what happens in Japan.
“The tradition is really important. We enjoy their company a lot, we respect them, we love the way they play and we love the challenge they bring to us, so from that point of view, it is really important encounter,” Hansen was reported as saying by New Zealand website stuff.co.nz in Wellington on Monday.
“I guess it will give whoever wins it a little confidence going into the World Cup, but it won’t mean whoever wins this one will automatically win the one in the World Cup.
“Even then, whoever wins that game, it doesn’t mean the other team is knocked out either.
“In the big scheme, it gives everyone to have a wee look at each other and feel each other out, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the World Cup, no.”
And what about the All Blacks wanting to get one back over the Boks for last year’s Wellington defeat?
The world champions did pull off a coveted victory in Pretoria a few weeks later, though.
“Not too much....revenge, we are not into that,” Hansen said. “I think they get a lot of confidence the more they’re in here.
“It can be a little bit overwhelming for some, and getting a game, getting the jersey on for the first time, getting a look at yourself in the mirror and all the things that come with your first time being named as an All Black to play is important to help that confidence, and then going out and playing well reinforces it.
“But just being around everybody and understanding that you fit in okay certainly helps. They’re getting a bit more comfortable.”
Hansen will certainly field a stronger outfit on Saturday compared to the one in Buenos Aires, as the Crusaders players will return after getting an extra week off for winning the Super Rugby title.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before we name the next squad,” Hansen said.
“A lot of things will be becoming a lot clearer. Most of them have done themselves no harm at all.”@ashfakmohamed