'It's funny': Springboks captain dismisses All Blacks criticism
Both the legacy of the coveted black jersey and the passion of their fans makes being an All Blacks one of the greatest honours a New Zealander can achieve.
But there’s pressure with that – a lot of expectation – that has caused countless players in the past to either sink or swim in the Test arena.
The All Blacks had to point to prove this season after losing crunch clashes with Ireland and France on their end-of-season tour last year.
While the men in black were able to avenge that loss against the Irish at Eden Park to open their season, a disastrous losing streak followed.
New Zealand had never lost a Test against Ireland at home, but they went on to lose their next two matches – and ultimately the series after a thriller in Wellington.
After losing to the Springboks and Argentina during The Rugby Championship, the All Blacks began to turn their form around.
The All Blacks ended their season on a seven Test unbeaten run, which included a dramatic draw against England at Twickenham.
Considering how competitive international rugby is now, the All Blacks deserve some praise.
Star flanker Siya Kolisi was asked about the All Blacks’ form this year and the criticism they’d received, which he quickly dismissed by commenting on the “good tough time” the men in black have had this year.
“It’s funny how you say it’s been a tough time for the All Blacks while they’ve won almost every competition they’ve played in,” Kolisi said on SENZ Breakfast.
“That’s a good tough time to have. That just shows the expectation of the group and I think it’s an amazing group.”
As for the reigning World Cup champions South Africa, they finished their 2022 season with an emphatic win over Eddie Jones’ England last weekend.
While the Springboks did lose to Ireland and France during the Autumn Nations Series, they’ll undoubtedly be a contender at next year’s World Cup.
“For us, we’ve been learning a lot and I think we’ve been improving quite a lot. I think this autumn series has helped us quite a lot and got us a lot of answers,” he added.
“A lot of players put their hand up so we would’ve loved to win all four games but I think we got the answers we needed.”
The Springboks created some history with the 27-13 win at Twickenham, which was their first victory at the venue for years.
South Africa controlled the Test after racing out to a convincing halftime lead. England were trailing 6-27 before Thomas du Toit was red carded an hour into the match, which gave them a glimmer of hope.
While they were able to score the final try of the night in the 72nd minute, the home side still couldn’t get close to their opponent’s strong lead.
“For most of us it was the first time winning in Twickenham.
“We know what we can do and we really trust every single guy in the team. For some people it could’ve been their last time playing (at Twickenham) because next year is a World Cup.
“Everybody had to stand up and I thought the way we fought together as a group after the two close losses against Ireland and France, and then we obviously put a good performance against Italy.
“We knew this meant so much, not just for us but for the people back at home. As tough as the tour was, the people didn’t stop supporting us.
“It just reminded us of what we’re playing for and what a privilege it is and we have to deliver on the day.”
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