The Rugby Championship may be decided but there is arguably even more to play for this weekend, as the All Blacks gear up to avenge their first loss of the year when they face the Springboks in Pretoria.
The All Blacks were put under pressure by a defiant Springboks side in Wellington, going down 36-34 in a thriller. The return match adds some spice to the end of the competition that has already been decided.
“We were feeling good when we were 12 points up and we let them back in ourselves,” midfielder Ryan Crotty explained.
“They created a bit of pressure but we let them back into the game. The learnings were that we could have executed a bit better down the stretch …. also that we always believed that we were going to get it done and we didn’t and it hurt.
“We gifted them a couple of tries.
“It’s about eliminating those and fixing a couple of learnings defensively from last time.
“So a lot of learnings but probably as the leadership, just how important our connections are out there … the connections that feed into our driver so that we can make good decisions based on the game plan, game flow, and how we can exert pressure.”
The pain of defeat will be used to motivate the team during the preparations, but come game time Crotty is expected a calm and focused side ready to execute the game plan.
“You don’t just bottle up the hurt and go out there and rip in on Saturday, it’s everything you do Sunday till Saturday. That’s how you use that as extra motivation.
“The early part of the week is getting the game plan and the mental side of it … the intelligence of the game and how you want to play. You put in a little bit of that hurt and bring it with the physicality. It’s a mixture of both but you use it to your advantage rather than let it hinder you.”
“You know if someone is drifting or too hyped.
“It’s about getting alongside them and helping them get to where they need to get to.
“But I trust our boys, that we will prepare well and be in a pretty good place mentally.”
The Springboks know that giving the All Blacks 70% possession and 75% territory is not a reliable recipe for winning against the number one side and will be looking to get better with the ball in hand.
“We have got to focus on ourselves and where we can get better and what we did wrong in the All Blacks game and the Australian game. It’s about trying to build on that,” Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx said.
“We want to attack a bit more … we were on defence quite a bit.”
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