Read tells rookies: ‘Don’t try too hard’
All Blacks skipper Kieran Read has a simple message for his Boks first-timers ahead of their baptism of fire in Albany tonight.
Props Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala, wing Rieko Ioane and fullback Damian McKenzie are all meeting the All Blacks’ greatest foe, the mighty Springboks, for the first time in their young test careers. It is a major stake in the ground for them as they establish themselves in the best team on the planet.
For Hames, Laulala and McKenzie’s it’s in the place of established, and world-class, All Blacks who are out injured, or in Ben Smith’s case, on sabbatical. For Rieko Ioane, the 20-year-old Auckland wunderkind, these are very much the formative stages of what is shaping as a special career.
As Read sees more and more new, fresh faces come through the revolving door of the national squad this season, he understands that it’s an important time as the All Blacks build depth, and increase their pool of test-ready options.
That process will continue in the All Blacks’ final home test of the year tonight when a new-look front row and a youthful back three will sandwich a solid, experienced core through the middle.
‘‘It’s great for this whole group to have had experiences like we’ve had over the last wee while, and now against a South Africa team coming here with a bit of confidence,’’ Read at the tail end of Friday’s captain’s run at the match venue.
‘‘For the new guys it’s just about them nailing their little bit, whether that’s in the scrum or getting where they need to be on attack. They don’t need to try too hard.
‘‘That’s been the messages this week for those guys, and they’ve been great.
‘‘They’ve come in really excited, with plenty of enthusiasm and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do.’’
Read did concede it had been an experience, and character, building season for him as skipper through 2017. He’d learnt plenty through a tough Lions series, and through some anxious moments in the last two Rugby Championship outings.
‘‘The changes to the team force you to focus on different things each week, and you’ve got to realign yourself to make sure you’ve got the alignment between the coaches and all the players,’’ Read said. ‘‘It’s a squad game now, and certainly has been this year with the amount of guys coming in and out.
‘‘I’ve just continually tried to push myself and, in doing so, hopefully the boys can follow me.’’
A lot of what the All Blacks had been through this year, facing adversity, or at least pressure junctures, was experience you can’t buy, the captain felt.
‘‘Most teams that come up against us probably have their best games of the year, or put as much pressure on us as they can. It’s a good mindset for our players to have as well. You can’t just turn up – you’ve got to bring what you can.’’
Read says the week has gone well and he feels like he has a team trending in the right direction, with those three consecutive Rugby Championship victories.
‘‘It’s important for us to finish our year at home well. We can’t wait to do that.’’
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