Misfiring All Blacks told to step up for Tri-Nations (AFP)
DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AFP) – The All Blacks were left with plenty to work on before their opening Tri-Nations Test against South Africa when they whipped Fiji with a flattering 60-14 scoreline.
Despite overpowering the Fijians by eight tries to two, the All Blacks on Friday let the Pacific islanders dominate for long periods in the second half, were bullied at the breakdown and the backs were short on attacking options.
“We've got no injuries which is very pleasing,” said coach Graham Henry, putting a positive spin on the patchy performance before acknowledging problems with intensity and accuracy.
“A lot of individuals played well but I think we've got a lot of work to do as a team, which is understandable. There is plenty to work on but to score 60 points is pleasing.”
But when pressed on how his side was shaping with the opening Tri-Nations Test against South Africa in Wellington next Saturday, Henry was clear that a rapid improvement was needed in seven days.
“Playing the Springboks will heighten the intensity,” he said.
“If we don't increase our intensity and accuracy, particularly at the breakdown, we're going to be in trouble.”
The breakdown is the key area of responsibility for captain Richie McCaw, who was quick to confess it was a problem against Fiji.
“Where we let ourselves down was at the breakdown where we didn't get clean ball,” McCaw conceded.
“We didn't get those little jobs right, either the halfback got interfered with or the ball got tied up. They're the little things that are frustrating when the things you've worked on during the week didn't come off.”
What the All Blacks had worked on ahead of the Test had been kept under wraps, though Henry said before the match that there would be a revolutionary new tactical approach.
After the muddling performance, he refused to elaborate on details of the new game plan.
“Some of it was good and we've got work to do on other things. Some we did well some of the time and it wasn't so good the rest of the time,” he said.
“It's what you'd expect. We tried a lot of things and the things we need to work on we'll get better at.”
One bright light for the All Blacks was the performance of Colin Slade as a backup for fly-half Dan Carter.
Slade was awarded his first run-on start for the All Blacks in only his second Test and despite playing only three Super 15 games this year after twice breaking his jaw.
“Colin Slade I thought would have struggled to have a better game, from the amount of footy he's had and the enormity of the occasion for him,” backs coach Wayne Smith said of the pivot, who scored 19 points including a solo try.
“He knew he had an opportunity and he also knew he had to take it. I think he did that.”
Super-sub scrumhalf Piri Weepu and wing Sitiveni Sivivatu were also singled out for special praise by the All Blacks coaches.
But they were reluctant to highlight the forwards despite their scrum domination.
Forwards coach Steve Hansen admitted that there were problems melding players with different styles from five separate Super 15 sides.
“We didn't have the combinations we'd like to have in say a month or two months' time. But we did some things quite well. To me the biggest work-on we've got is the breakdown and being effective there.”
Tags: Africa, south africa