New Zealand coach Steve Hansen was not remotely concerned on Saturday that his side’s thumping win over Australia in the Rugby Championship would translate into complacency ahead of next week’s return match in Wellington.
Hansen was clearly enjoying himself in Sydney after the 47-29 victory, opening with a “told you so” lecture to those who doubted whether captain Richie McCaw should start on his return from sabbatical and whether Aaron Cruden was good enough to stand in for Dan Carter at stand-off.
Cruden’s man-of-the-match performance, which included a charge-down for a try, was just one of many aspects of the game that gave Hansen good reason to be satisfied but there were no smug smiles when he was asked about sport’s dreaded “c” word.
“One of the strengths of All Blacks teams, in history, is they are very good at looking at the things they didn’t do well. And when we reflect on this game, we’ll do that,” he said.
“We’ll look at the stuff we need to fix up and do better and there’s quite a bit. That’s my gut feeling from what I saw.
“A lot of things we did great but there’s still a lot we need to tidy up. Our leaders are very important in this area, they’ll keep driving the team. It’s important to be a winning team but you’ve got to keep humble and your feet on the floor because you’ve got to win again next week.”
A victory in Wellington next week would give New Zealand a superb start to their campaign to retain the Rugby Championship title, which they won with six wins out of six last year, as well as maintain their decade-long grip on the Bledisloe Cup.
McCaw, whose 117th Test earned him an incredible 103rd victory in the All Black shirt, scored one of New Zealand’s six tries as Ben Smith helped himself to a hat-trick, and later said the team’s leadership group would stamp down on the tiniest scintilla of complacency.
“There’s very, very little between these teams and, if you don’t get the prep right and you don’t get up and put your performance out there, you’ll come second,” he said.
“If you start thinking you are better than you are, you’ll tip up. I think it’s the greatest challenge in sport to back up performance after performance.
“It’s easy when you have a bad one or come second to get that motivation, it’s being able to do that when you have had a win that’s important.”
The All Blacks returned to Wellington yesterday, flying into a city rocked by the magnitude 6.5 earthquake which struck south of the capital on Friday. Aftershocks have continued throughout the weekend but safety officials will check the venue for next weekend’s Test today and they were “not anticipating any major issues”.
For Ewen McKenzie, it was back to the drawing board after his reign as Australia coach opened with a defeat that left little room for solace.
The Wallabies would have gone tryless if not for a 70-metre solo effort from Will Genia and a last-minute consolation score by James O’Connor.
McKenzie said: “We were level pegging there for some time in the game but you have to respect possession. We had possession there at times, we did some good things, we made a bunch of line breaks, but then we didn’t treasure the ball enough and they won a lot of points on counterattack.
“We didn’t control the ball and they were able to play and do some of the things they’re good at and you pay a price for that.
“There was some stuff that we can improve.”