Kiwi rugby legend John Hart has pointed the finger at the players rather than under-fire coach Ian Foster after the All Blacks fell to their first defeat to Argentina on Saturday night.
Foster was considered by many in the New Zealand rugby community to be the wrong pick for All Blacks coach even before the disappointing draw in the team’s first test of the year against the Wallabies.
The Foster regime has since failed to win the majority of the five tests the All Blacks have played so far this year, including back-to-back losses against an injury-plagued Wallabies and a Pumas side who hadn’t played test rugby in over a year, leading to some already calling for his head to roll.
But Hart, who coached the All Blacks for four years in the late 90s, said it’s too early to place the sole blame on Foster and pointed the finger at the players instead.
Following his comments on The Breakdown last week where he said that the Pumas wouldn't challenge the All Blacks, Sir John Kirwan has been made to eat some "humble pie" after the upset. https://t.co/y2yB9WpVeG
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 15, 2020
“He’ll be feeling the pressure but it’s early days,” Hart told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking. “I think it’s a collective thing here. The coach can [only] do so much; we all well know that.
“But I think in the end, on the field on Saturday, we didn’t quite see the finesse that we need and a lot of that has to be the players. The players got to have a really hard look at themselves rather than at the moment just focus on the coach.”
While Hart didn’t stray from criticising the All Blacks, he also made sure to praise the “fantastic” performance from the Argentineans in what was perhaps the greatest victory in the nation’s rugby history.
“Obviously we’ve got issues and it was a disappointing loss, but I think you’ve got to give full credit to what was a fantastic Argentinean performance – attack and defence. I haven’t seen an Argentinean team play like that ever. They thoroughly deserved to win.
“We didn’t quite handle the pressure of the game and there were some issues that came out of it. I think particularly discipline and also our ability to change the game when tactics aren’t working. But I think we really have to give significant praise to what was a pretty special performance.”
When asked about the perception that the current All Blacks side tends to struggle to cope or adjust when things don’t go well, Hart agreed, adding that one of the big issues in the current side has been discipline.
“Well at the moment I think it is,” he said about the All Blacks’ ability to cope with pressure. “I do think our discipline is letting us down. We’re giving away a lot of penalties for things that we shouldn’t be doing. I think that has to be addressed.
“The Dane Coles incident on Saturday is unnecessary and ends up putting a lot of pressure on your team. So I think there are issues like that.
“It is a question now of the team regrouping and making sure that they come together for a very important test now in terms of the All Blacks season.”
Despite the sensational performance from the Pumas, Hart said it is going to be difficult to produce a similar performance in their next test, but hoped the win was a sign of a stronger Argentinean side going forward.
“It’s going to be pretty hard for them to back it up next week for instance I would think from everything they’ve put into this game. I saw a totally different Argentinean side – a side that carried the ball and retained the ball. And a side that defended with real passion and skill. Hopefully it’s a team moving in the World Rugby order.”
Argentina are set to play three tests in three weeks, starting with the Wallabies this Saturday, followed by a rematch against the All Blacks and a final clash against the hosts.
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