Read tells rook­ies: ‘Don’t try too hard’

The Southland Times - - SPORT - MARC HINTON

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.’’

- More test cov­er­age P A23

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