25 Oct 2015

All Black veterans pay back the faith

9:16 am on 25 October 2015

The All Blacks' wise old heads have once again proved their worth, willing the side to their second straight Rugby World Cup final, writes Alex Coogan-Reeves.

Dan Carter after the All Blacks' semi-final win against South Africa

Dan Carter after the All Blacks' semi-final win against South Africa Photo: AFP

There has been talk at times that some of the New Zealand team's veterans have held on to long for this tournament, but they repaid their coach's faith in the second half as they showed great composure under pressure to outlast the South Africans.

Many All Blacks fans wore stunned expressions at half-time as their side trailed 12-7, with a man in the sin-bin and the rain pelting down onto Twickenham.

But the situation was nothing new for the players, whose experiences in Dublin and Johannesburg in 2013 - as well as earlier this year at Ellis Park - have given them belief that they can come back from anywhere when the stakes are high.

"Your leadership on the field is based on having experienced that many times before," coach Steve Hansen told reporters after the match referencing his experienced core of players including Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu.

"You have got (to have) guys on the park who can do that for you. Self-belief is a massive thing."

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Photo: AFP

Hansen said it started at the top, with captain Richie McCaw - who was no stranger to dealing with adversity.

"We have got a captain who is probably the greatest player the game has ever seen and he is also a great skipper.

"In 2007 (after the quarter-final defeat to France) as a young captain he was criticised a lot and I know that hurt him."

"But he has grown and we have got a leadership group on the field who have a massive amount of self-belief. When you get into situations like we did tonight, it's about the process."

Dan Carter slots a drop goal during the semi-final

Dan Carter slots a drop goal during the semi-final Photo: AFP

McCaw's long-time team-mate Carter had come under criticism for his form earlier in the tournament, but again played a starring role for the All Blacks, nailing two sideline conversions, a drop-goal and turning over the ball to set up Beauden Barrett's crucial try.

Assistant coach Ian Foster was reluctant to say the first five is in the best form of his career, but was pleased with the way he's come back after struggling with injuries in recent seasons

"He's in the form we need him to be in right now," Foster said.

"Someone who's gone through what he has done the last two or three years, to climb back in and control the team the way he's controlling it is outstanding.

"To see him out there now running freely with a smile on his face is outstanding."

Kieran Read catches the line-out ball in a line out

Kieran Read catches the line-out ball in a line out Photo: AFP

The All Blacks now shift their focus to tomorrow's semi-final between Australia and Argentina and while Hansen says he's not bothered who they play in the final he hopes they "bash each other to bits" at Twickenham.

Hansen says he's expecting a full squad available to pick from for the final, with the early substitution of Nehe Milner-Skudder a precautionary measure.

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