Hansen: I’d give us a B-plus

Waikato Times - - SPORT - MARC HINTON

Steve Hansen be­lieves his All Blacks of 2017 re­main short of the A-stan­dard, even af­ter their record dis­man­tling of the Spring­boks to take an iron grip on yet an­other Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter his side ticked just about ev­ery box in the book in Auck­land on Satur­day night, run­ning in eight tries to an­ni­hi­late the Boks 57-0, Hansen might have raised an eye­brow or two when he as­sessed his team’s first half of the year some­where around a B-plus.

Sure, he’s a hard marker. The man has been part of con­sec­u­tive World Cup tri­umphs, af­ter all. He has been to the moun­tain­top, and he un­der­stands when a side is still mak­ing its way up.

And there was also that Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions se­ries to fac­tor in. No mat­ter the op­po­nents, the All Blacks are never con­tent with a drawn se­ries.

So, though the All Blacks give ev­ery ap­pear­ance of head­ing back to the lofty plateau they oc­cu­pied last sea­son, Hansen con­sid­ers his class of 2017 still very much a work in progress.

‘‘We drew a se­ries we should have won, af­ter be­ing be­hind for three min­utes of the whole se­ries. We didn’t score enough tries, we didn’t play enough rugby,’’ Hansen 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.’’

PHOTO: REUTERS

All Blacks wing Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der looks like he’s head­ing for a tough land­ing as he loses a high ball.

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