22 Sep 2019

Not perfect but ABs pleased with discipline

11:44 am on 22 September 2019

New Zealand were never going to be perfect on day two of the World Cup, coach Steve Hansen says after their 23-13 victory over South Africa but he and captain Kieran Read are encouraged by their side's defence and discipline.

Steve Hansen, coach of the All Blacks.


Two tries in four brilliant minutes proved the difference in the Pool B opener on Saturday but the holders struggled to find much rhythm and had to ride out a brief Springbok scare in the second half.

"We won, didn't we? So you've got to be happy with that. Were we perfect, no but you're never going to be at this stage of the tournament. You're not in the swing of the tournament and right from the get go you've got the biggest game possibly of the group," Hansen told a news conference.

"There is plenty of stuff we can work on. The boys showed a lot of fortitude, we didn't get too many opportunities and we took them when they came and we scrambled really well when they had opportunities themselves. Both those areas are really important to us."

Hansen highlighted first five Richie Mo'unga's potential "match winner" of a cover tackle on the electric Cheslin Kolbe, just after South Africa had cut the deficit to one score in the second half.

With two staunch defences going head to head in a game that produced only 12 combined line break, Hansen said it was a case of having to take what you are given and for New Zealand that was two stunning breakaway tries.

"It was really hard early in the game for us, our set-piece wasn't as nice as you'd expect it to be and therefore you can't have a platform to strike off. The boys adjusted okay and as the game got on, they started to get a bit more fluid with it," he said.

"It's an area that we're just continually working on, we're making progress but you can't strike if you don't get TQB, which is top quality ball at the set piece."

Meanwhile, South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said New Zealand feasted on his side's errors and bemoaned the penalty count stacked heavily against his side.

New Zealand scored two tries to one in a game characterised by mistakes from both sides, but while the world champions were able to capitalise on the Springbok blunders, Erasmus's team did not manage the same clinical finishing in return.

Winger George Bridge and lock Scott Barrett completed incisive breaks that came from turnover ball to earn New Zealand a victory that will likely see them top the pool and could mean an easier quarter-final.

This despite the Boks having almost 60 percent of the territory and most of the possession.

"The tries they scored came from our mistakes," Erasmus told reporters.

"You could see in the first 10 minutes what their plan was to try and ruffle our defence, they kicked two up-and-unders from set-phases under our poles.

"There were times that we really put them under pressure. But people forget that as well as they attack, they defend very well too.

"The moment they get scoreboard pressure and you have to play in your half in these conditions, then they really make it tough."

Erasmus said the clinical way the All Blacks took their limited chances, versus the Boks' inability to do likewise, could be a telling factor later in the competition.

"Give all credit to New Zealand," he said.

"It shows experience and a world-class team, and we struggled to handle that. I think it was a combination of them putting pressure on us and us not being able to handle it well."

Erasmus had been vocal in the build-up to the game about referees treating both teams equally at the World Cup, but says in this instance his side's discipline let them down.

"We conceded, I think, 11 penalties to two (the count was 9-4 in favour of New Zealand), so we did 11 things wrong and we have to go away and fix it. So that battle we lost.

"(With that count) you're going to struggle to beat New Zealand, the quality side they are. I think discipline was our biggest downfall. I don't think we can moan about anything."

- Reuters