Boks caught NZ on back foot - McCaw
The All Blacks were caught on the back foot by a committed South Africa performance before a stronger second-half showing saw New Zealand clinch a hard-fought 21-11 Rugby Championship victory, New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said in Dunedin on Saturday.
South Africa missed a total of five penalties and a conversion and butchered an early try which could have seen them take a comfortable victory but McCaw instead focused on his team’s positives, including an improved defensive effort in the second half.
“We were caught flat footed a little bit at the start but I think as the game went on we got into that, adapted I suppose. There was as a bit of frustration giving away penalties. Had they gone over it might’ve put us under pressure but that wasn’t the case,” he told a news conference.
“You could probably see that they’re pretty heavy on the fringes and breakdown and in the first half we got caught flat footed at times. But as the game went on in the second half we showed good defence on their big ball carriers and we didn’t give them lot of front-foot ball to play off. It was a good battle, every game against the Boks is pretty similar to that.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen echoed his captain’s sentiments as to how tough a test it had been.
“Very happy with the win, it wasn’t complete performance obviously and those that watched would’ve understood it was a torrid test, with an opposition in the Springboks who were desperate and played with a lot of commitment and physicality,” said Hansen.
“Test matches sometimes test character and I’m pleased with the character of both the older statesmen and younger players. For some of them it was the first time that they played that type of rugby and they came through well.
“We scored a couple of tries and played good rugby at times,” he added.
Hansen also paid tribute to the way that South Africa stopped New Zealand from playing a free-flowing game.
“South Africa won the collisions both as tacklers and ball carriers and when you do that you go forward. We have to give ourselves credit. We hung in there and slowly created ascendancy and it allowed us to win the game,” he explained.
The introduction of halfback Aaron Smith at half time seemed to ignite the hosts as he added some extra spark and he deserved his sparkling individual try in 60th minute when he wrong-footed South Africa fullback Zane Kirchner.
Smith had been dropped from the starting line-up for breaking team protocol during the week's build-up to the test but repaid his teammates and coaches in the best possible fashion.
“Aaron gave us the response we were looking for. There was only one response really and that was that he could deliver. He scored a great try and he delivered.
“Aaron came out and made a difference. It was a tough week for him but he came out and performed. We all make mistakes,” he said.