Hansen: I’d give us a B-plus
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.’’
All Blacks wing Nehe Milner-Skudder looks like he’s heading for a tough landing as he loses a high ball.