STEVE Hansen is clearly determined to turn gold into platinum, having promised that the All Blacks can improve next year.
Given that Hansen has just coached his team to a perfect year of results, with 14 wins in 14 Tests, that is quite a statement.
New Zealand became the first team since the advent of professionalism to enjoy an unblemished year of results, pocketing the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship along the way. But Hansen has underlined what is expected of his heroes in 2014, in a clear attempt to ward off complacency.
“From a performance point of view it was nowhere near perfect, I mean there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to go away and work on and get better at otherwise we’ll get passed,” Hansen told New Zealand’s 3 News.
“What can we improve on? Just about everything in our game. We can catch and pass better, our running lines can be better, our position-specific skills can be better, our game structures we can improve on and get tidier with, our core roles can get better, our breakdown we have to improve on… I don’t think our performances were that great that we’ve got to a point that we can’t improve any more.”
The All Blacks nearly came unstuck in the last of their 14 Tests, as an inspired Ireland built an imposing lead during their clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. But the relentless world champions clawed back the advantage before prevailing with a last-minute converted try.
“The two big games that really stood out were Ellis Park [their October win over South Africa] and the other one was Dublin,” Hansen said. “To show that character and come back and win it in the 81st minute, or whatever it was, was pretty special.
“The proudest moment I think is when you see the big guys in the tight five actually doing their job but also catching and passing well, no more so than in the last one and a half minutes of the Dublin game.”