Hansen hopes All Blacks learn lessons from hurt
Steve Hansen’s bluff good humour did not desert him on Saturday night in Brisbane but there was no disguising his displeasure after New Zealand faltered for the first time since he took charge as coach at the end of last year.
An error-strewn performance from the world champions allowed an injury-depleted Australia to claim an 18-18 draw in the third and final Bledisloe Cup test, bringing to an end the All Blacks’ winning streak at 16 matches.
The 53-year-old had not had the best of weeks with the death of his father casting a pall over preparations for a match in which hooker Keven Mealamu won his 100th test cap.
Hansen paid grudging tribute to the pressure the Wallabies exerted on his team but immediately turned his attention to re-establishing their dominance on the tour of Europe in matches against Scotland, Italy, Wales and England.
“We’ll go away and take the hurt with us and have a good look at what we did individually and collectively as a group and prepare for the next match against Scotland,” he told reporters.
“We could find a lot of excuses, we could say it had been an emotional week with Dad passing and Kevy’s 100 but I don’t think they’re the reasons. I think somewhere deep down, we just didn’t go deep enough in our preparation and as a result we didn’t get the game right.
“That’s certainly not the way we want to play.”
Despite the All Blacks’ failure to match the record winning streak in top tier rugby, Hansen could hardly be too unhappy with how the team has been performing in the 11 months since he stepped up from assistant coach under Graham Henry.
Charged with laying the groundwork for the defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in 2015, Hansen has put out sides who have played some breathtaking rugby this season as they swept Ireland 3-0 and romped to the inaugural Rugby Championship title.
Their second half performance against South Africa in Soweto two weeks ago was an irresistible combination of power and pace which turned a halftime deficit into a comfortable win.
That they failed to back that up against their trans-Tasman Sea rivals in the same stadium where they last lost a test 14 months ago was disappointing but Hansen did see a silver lining.
With the hooter having already sounded to indicate the end of 80 minutes, the All Blacks were under the cosh in their own half as the Wallabies pounded away at their defensive line trying to force a penalty which could have won the match.
When Australia were penalised, rather than take the safe option to boot the ball into touch for the draw, Hansen’s men took a scrum and rampaged up to the other end of the pitch where flyhalf Dan Carter had a shot at a match-winning drop goal.
“I just thought the composure and character they showed to do that was marvellous,” Hansen added.
“So, we’ve got plenty to work with, it’s not the end of the world, but certainly enough pain and hurt in the dressing room to learn the lesson from it.”