ALL Blacks coach Steve Hansen is sweating over the fitness of Ma’a Nonu and Jerome Kaino for next week’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia but as big a concern is why his team is getting penalised so much at the breakdown.
Inside centre Nonu injured his shoulder and blindside flanker Kaino hurt his elbow during Saturday’s 12-12 draw with the Wallabies at the Olympic Stadium and are doubts for next weekend’s return at Eden Park in Auckland.
Uppermost in Hansen’s mind, though, were the yellow cards doled out to prop Wyatt Crockett and Beauden Barrett by South African referee Jaco Peyper for offences committed at the breakdown.
Hansen said after the match that his team needed to address the number of cards they had been conceding and returned to the theme on Sunday.
“If we’re not getting continuity and the referee’s penalising you, it’s difficult to get a dominant platform,” he said.
“So we’ve got to go away and look at some of that stuff, work out if we were in the wrong and, if we were in the right, work out what we were doing to make him think we were in the wrong. But there’s no point losing sleep over it because you’re playing sport and some days you’re not going to get the result you want.
“So you’ve got to be a big boy and take it on the chin and move on.”
The All Blacks were put into a position where they were conceding yellow cards and penalties because of the amount of pressure they were under from the Wallabies’ attack at times.
Captain Richie McCaw, who has developed a reputation over the years for judging the fine line between legality and illegality in the tackle area, suggested momentum played a major role in the officiating of that part of the game.
“Probably the team that has the momentum perhaps gets the rub of the green,” the flanker said. “When you are under the pump you are guilty of trying to force things a little bit rather than backing our defence and some decisions went against us because we were on the back foot.
“We need to be a little bit smarter at times, especially when we’re under the pump, that we don’t give the ref an opportunity to make the decisions to make it worse.”
Hansen, as gracious after the match as he was mischievous in the run-up to the match, was not surprised by a strong performance by the Wallabies and said on Saturday night the Australians were always tough opponents – even at a children’s games like marbles.
“They’ll have confidence in their game and they’re all playing for each other,” he added yesterday.
“Australia teams are always tough to play, you get those weather conditions and it makes for a tough night.”
The draw prevented New Zealand from taking outright the record for the most consecutive test wins, which they currently share at 17 matches with the 1965-69 All Blacks and South Africa side of 1997-98.
“There’s only three teams in the history of tier one nations that have won 17 games in a row so that’s a massive achievement in itself,” Hansen said.
“Disappointing that we didn’t get to 18 but pleasing that we gutsed out a draw, I suppose.”