At a glance

The Timaru Herald - - CATALYST -

New Zealand 57 (Nehe Mil­nerSkud­der 2, Scott Bar­rett, Rieko Ioane, Brodie Re­tal­lick, Lima Sopoaga, Codie Tay­lor, Ofa Tu’un­gafasi tries; Beau­den Bar­rett 7 cons pen) South Africa 0. said when asked to as­sess his team’s home por­tion of the test sea­son. ‘‘We played pretty good against Aus­tralia, and showed com­po­sure.

‘‘In the early part of this tour­na­ment our com­po­sure has been out­stand­ing.’’

Then Hansen came to the crux of the mat­ter.

‘‘The team it­self is grow­ing, and the be­lief in the team is grow­ing as you saw [against the Boks]. Some of the young play­ers are mak­ing big strides. Ofa [Tu’un­gafasi] is start­ing to re­ally look like a test tight­head prop ... Codie Tay­lor, who had an op­por­tu­nity with Dane [Coles] be­ing in­jured, comes on now and it’s like we’ve lost noth­ing, and you’re talk­ing about Dane be­ing the best hooker in the world. That gives you a lot of con­fi­dence as a team.’’

Hansen could have con­tin­ued. Rieko Ioane has be­come a world­class left wing in a short space of time (on Satur­day he had 12 car­ries, gained 171 me­tres, beat 11 de­fend­ers and made four clean breaks), Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der has slot­ted back in on the right side as though he has never been away, Damian McKen­zie is mak­ing a de­cent fist of full­back, Liam Squire and Vaea Fi­fita are emerg­ing, so is Scott Bar­rett, and Nepo Laulala has filled in bril­liantly for Owen Franks in the tight­head spot.

The team retains real qual­ity in the key po­si­tions. Halves Beau­den Bar­rett and Aaron Smith are back to their best (or close to it), Kieran Read is on top of his game, Brodie Re­tal­lick too and Sam Cane is set­ting the tone up front in all the right ar­eas (like his team-lead­ing 15 tack­les on Satur­day night).

On Satur­day the All Blacks were down some pretty heavy hit­ters, with Franks, Joe Moody and Is­rael Dagg all out in­jured (and likely done for the year), and Ben Smith ab­sent on sab­bat­i­cal.

Yet you wouldn’t have known it. The for­wards laid a won­der­ful plat­form, the backs at­tacked bril­liantly and the de­fence was as good as it gets. Hard to do bet­ter than nil.

Hansen wants to see more of the stan­dard on Satur­day night over the loom­ing road com­po­nent. To that ex­tent, the ex­pe­ri­ence his play­ers are gar­ner­ing is in­valu­able, he says.

‘‘We had a young side against Ar­gentina who had to bat­tle through that game. So they’re get­ting learn­ings. Then this group con­tained some of those young guys and you saw their per­for­mance go up an­other level. It’s a con­fi­dence thing.’’

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