All Blacks focus on raising game ’10-12 notches’

A familiar theme resonates within the All Blacks camp this week.

From the top down, they are on edge; frustrated with their failings in Sydney and seemingly primed to deliver the required response at Eden Park tomorrow night.

Almost immediately after the Sydney draw, individuals stood up and took responsibility for personal mistakes – it was a seriously sombre changing shed. They’ve since grumbled publicly about the need for atonement.

Ryan Crotty, who starts his first test in the midfield, professed yesterday he had never experienced the same sense of collective resolve.

Such repeated statements aren’t hollow threats. This team doesn’t do pre-match hype.

”Just about everything,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said bluntly of what he was unsatisfied with last week.

”Our skills and our game structures were basically non-existent to where we expect them to be.”

They won’t stew on it, but blowing the chance to secure the world record for test wins outright will have hurt. Expect to see that inner fury unleashed.

There’s no doubt the All Blacks will lift. Rarely, if ever, do they deliver back-to-back poor performances.

But the major question facing the Wallabies, after they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and one-man advantage for 20 minutes last week, is how much more improvement do they have?

For all the confidence gained from running the decidedly off-colour world’s best so close, there must also be nagging doubt they couldn’t finish the job.

”There’s definitely been a lift at training,” Hansen noted.

”Whether that transfers we’ll have to wait and see. I’m hoping so. I know we can improve. If we want to retain the Bledisloe Cup, we’ve got to go up about 10 or 12 notches and get into it. I don’t know how much they’ve got left to lift.

”They’re pretty satisfied with what they did last weekend so probably don’t have too many reasons to want to change. This week we’ve got to concentrate on us.”

An average refereeing display from South African Jaco Peyper, not adapting to the conditions, and the absence of basic skills all contributed to the All Blacks’ lacklustre efforts.

Peyper has since admitted errors – Wyatt Crockett’s yellow card and early scrum engagement penalties the notable clangers. But there’s no point poring over those factors now. That won’t change this outcome.

Much of the focus has centred on Crotty’s inclusion inside Conrad Smith and the potential lack of punch from a midfield combination missing Ma’a Nonu’s considerable bulk.

The Wallabies, though, will again field dual playmakers Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua in a backline not noted for its physicality.

”Obviously, they’re not the same experienced pair as Nonu and Smith but we’re very confident they’ll play well together,” Hansen said of Crotty and Smith.

”They’re both intelligent players with good ball skills and they’re both good defenders. They’re both good talkers and have experience as captains.

”There’s plenty of criticism that was warranted last week – there were certain areas of our game we were very poor at. We’ve got to be honest about that. It wasn’t just the punch in the backline it was right across the park.”

Up front, the All Blacks also have a point to prove.

There was virtually no sight of Kieran Read’s trademark offloads down the edges and for the final 50 minutes almost no flow or momentum to their attack.

”There’s no doubt about that,” Hansen said.

”The game is won in the tight-five. If you don’t do the job up front you don’t get punch in the backline.”

- Stuff

Steve Hansen – Performance about All Blacks , not ref Peyper

It was no consolation at all to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that a post-game meeting with last week’s referee Jaco Peyper yielded a frank “mea culpa” from the South African whistle-blower.

Hansen factored a poor refereeing performance into the contributing reasons for a sub-par All Black performance in last week’s 12-12 draw with the Wallabies in Sydney to open the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.

But it was by no means the only factor, or even the main one, Hansen admitted on Thursday after naming a starting XV for Saturday night’s return clash at Eden Park featuring three changes. It’s notable, though, that nobody has been dropped on the basis of that poor performance at the Olympic stadium, with Liam Messam and Ryan Crotty coming in for the injured Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu respectively, and Conrad Smith returning after his dash to Wellington for the birth of his baby boy.

Hansen today challenged his All Blacks to be better – in fact, to be much better – than they’d been last Saturday night when their 17-test win streak came to a disappointing end in a pretty uninspiring test match all-round.

And the most successful coach in world rugby did not hold back on the shortcomings of his side in Sydney, nor his expectation that they will be addressed in the Bledisloe return.

By picking pretty much them all again, he’s put the ball firmly back in their court.

“I know why we didn’t perform at the weekend,” Hansen said. “There were certain areas of our game we were very poor at, and there was another reason which we won’t go into here, but that’s been dealt with as well.

“We’ve spoken to the referee about the scrummaging. He put his hand up, said he got the free-kicks wrong. But we can’t control [the referee], we’ve had the discussion we needed to have and moved on. It’s about us playing our game and playing it better than we played it last week.”

After declaring he wouldn’t get into the refereeing issues, Hansen was asked what Peyper had conceded he got wrong.

“Where do you want me to start?” he barked. “The free-kick he felt was wrong and he was not sure why he called pre-engage. The first yellow card was wrong – the ball was out.

“It was a good conversation, I respect the man for his honesty … he’s no different than players — some days you have a bad day. He had a bad day at the office and put his hand up.

“But I’ve got to emphasise, it wasn’t just his problem. We had a hell of a bad day ourselves so we’ll forget about him and concentrate on what we can do.”

The theory doing the rounds is that the All Blacks have got a higher level to go to, but for the Wallabies it’s going to be tough to do much better than the 65 percent possession they enjoyed on a rare day of dominance over the world champs up front.

“I know we can, but I don’t know how much they’ve got left to lift,” Hansen said. “We’ve just got to concentrate on us, get us right, then we take the other factors out. If we play well enough we get to control the game, and if we control the game we give ourselves a chance of winning it.

“I’m never surprised when Australia stands up in a contest. They would come out fighting in a game of marbles. That’s the way they are and the way we are. In saying that, I understand why the game played out the way it did, because 1) we played poorly and made mistakes, and you can’t build momentum when you’re making mistakes; and 2) it wasn’t a great performance from the ref and you can’t build momentum if he’s taking it away from you.”

On the whistle this week’s is Frenchman Romain Poite, who’s taken a hard line on the Wallaby scrum in the past. Hansen had no expectation of a repeat.

“The expectation you have with your referee is that on any day they don’t come in with pre-conceived ideas. I’m assuming he’s not coming in with pre-conceived ideas. He should come, in look at the pictures and take them for what they are. If he does that it will be great.”

Again, Hansen made it more than clear that his chief gripes were around his own team’s shortcomings. Asked what bugged him about Sydney, he replied: “Just about everything. Our skills and our game structures were basically non-existent to where we would expect them to be. They’re two key areas.”

The decision to go with Crotty, for his first test start, ahead of rookie Malakai Fekitoa at No 12 had been, in the end, a pretty straightforward call.

“He’s played there a lot more than Mala, he’s comfortable there, and Mala is still learning to play there. To put him in that situation as a young footballer is probably not fair. And Ryan has played well whenever he’s played for us, so we’ve got confidence in him to do that job.”

stuff.co.nz

Juan Smith back in Springbok Test team for Sat test

Juan Smith will complete a remarkable return to international rugby when he runs out for the Springboks against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, in the second Test of the Castle Lager Incoming Series (kick-off 21h40 SA time).

Smith’s inclusion at flank is one of three changes to the starting XV, with a further four changes on the bench.

Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) will start in the tight five, with Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha moving to the bench. Marcell Coetzee will join them amongst the replacements after coming in as a late substitute for the injured Willem Alberts last weekend.

The final change to the team, which beat Argentina by 13-6 last weekend in Pretoria, is the inclusion of Lwazi Mvovo on the bench.

“We have a couple of options at blindside flank, but we’ve decided that this will be a great opportunity to give Juan a chance,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“If it wasn’t for an injury which kept him out in June, he would’ve played a part in the Castle Lager Incoming Series. He was one of Toulon’s best players after more than two years out of the game and helped them to win two major competitions.

“Apart from experience and leadership, Juan is a superb ball-carrier and also brilliant at the back of the lineouts, where we missed Willem Alberts last week. Our lineouts are an important attacking platform and we need to improve this week – I’m sure Juan will add another dimension.”

Meyer added: “It’s also wonderful to have Eben back to full fitness and he’ll slot in at lock without any problems.

“’Beast’ recently returned from an injury which kept him out for some time and it was decided to rotate him and Gurthrö mainly because of the short turn-around after our travel to Argentina.”

Saturday’s Test will be the Springboks’ first visit to Salta, in the north west of Argentina.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge. Although we were happy with the result in Pretoria, we were not happy with the performance and this is an opportunity to show improvement against a tough opponent away from home,” said Meyer.


The Springbok team to face Argentina in Salta is:

Position Name Test Caps Test points
15 Willie le Roux 16 35
14 Cornal Hendricks 4 10
13 Damian de Allende 1 0
12 Jean de Villiers (captain) 97 125
11 Bryan Habana 98 275
10 Handré Pollard 2 18
9 Ruan Pienaar 77 135
8 Duane Vermeulen 20 10
7 Juan Smith 69 60
6 Francois Louw 31 25
5 Lood de Jager 4 10
4 Eben Etzebeth 24 0
3 Jannie du Plessis 55 5
2 Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 61 45
1 Gurthrö Steenkamp 51 30
Replacements:
16 Adriaan Strauss 35 25
17 Tendai Mtawarira 56 10
18 Frans Malherbe 3 0
19 Bakkies Botha 80 35
20 Marcell Coetzee 17 10
21 Francois Hougaard 28 20
22 Morné Steyn 57 663
23 Lwazi Mvovo 9 15

· Juan Smith last played a Test for South Africa on 27 November, 2010 against England at Twickenham. If he scores a try, Smith will become sole record holder of most tries for South Africa as a flank (11), a record he currently shares with Schalk Burger.

· Ruan Pienaar will be playing in his 50th Test for South Africa at scrumhalf. He also played 15 Tests at flyhalf, ten at fullback and three on the wing.

· The referee is Steve Walsh of Australia (formerly from New Zealand). This will be his 17th Test involving South Africa. From the previous 16 games the Springboks have won 12, drawn three and lost once. Walsh will also equal the record of Alain Rolland of Ireland who also officiated in 17 Tests involving South Africa.

· This will be the Springboks’ first Test at the Estadio Padre Ernest Martearena in Salta.

Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs

Springboks honour the late Mateo Uriburu at San Isidro Club

The Springboks on Tuesday honoured the life of Mateo Uriburu, a young Argentinean rugby player who sadly passed away during a tour of San Isidro Club’s Under-18 side to South Africa earlier this year.

The 17-year-old Uriburu passed away in March. He felt ill during a training session and was admitted to hospital in Cape Town during the club’s tour to South Africa. He sadly passed away a few days later.

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers handed Uriburu’s parents a Springbok jersey, signed by the touring squad, after the team’s first training session at San Isidro on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re all part of the rugby family and this is just a very small gesture from our side to say that his family, friends and the club are in our thoughts. With this jersey, we’d like to honour Mateo’s life,” said De Villiers.

San Isidro Club is one of the main rugby teams in Argentina and has provided many Test players for Los Pumas.

Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs

Signal Hill this morning 21 gun salute

Signal Hill this morning 21 gun salute

Envy him Love him or hate him Richie McCaw Still World Rugby’s Best Openside Flanker

Richie McCaw Still World Rugby’s Best Openside Flanker
By Jeff Cheshire , Correspondent Aug 19, 2014

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Richie McCaw has been under more scrutiny this year than at any other time in his career. The All Black captain has been one of the most talked about players after the weekend’s draw with Australia, with many pundits claiming that he was outplayed, once again, by his opposite, Michael Hooper.
People will see what they want to see, though. To suggest that McCaw’s performance on Saturday was anything but sensational would be underselling his contribution. The three-time world player of the year is still the best openside flanker in the world, let alone his own country.
He may no longer be the player he was in the early years of his career. During the first half of his career he made a name for himself as a breakdown specialist, a good link-player and one who would get around the field quickly. He was very much a classical openside flanker.

Ross Land/Getty Images
In his early years McCaw was very much a classical openside flanker.
As he has grown older and the game has developed, he has changed this approach. He is now a physical player in contact, one who still makes a ton of tackles but also doubles as a strong ball-carrier and is becoming a reasonable option in the middle of the line-out. While he can still pull off the occasional piece of mastery at the breakdown, he is more selective as to when he commits and this is no longer the only staple of his game.
His speed is not what it was, but his anticipatory ability makes up for that. He is a player that will see things before they happen and can cover for the mistakes of others. There are few more intelligent players in the game, both in the lines he runs and in his understanding of the rules, having an uncanny knack of knowing when a ruck has formed and when it has not.
You cannot underestimate his toughness, either. It is rare you will see him go down. When he does he will more often than not get straight back up and he will not let it deter him from going back for more.

Phil Walter/Getty Images
In recent years McCaw has become a more physical player.
Just because his game has changed, does not mean that he is any less effective.
On Saturday night he was once again the busiest player on the park. His 20 tackles was the most of anyone in the game and shows just how involved he was on defence. In the first half he was particularly prominent, tackling like a demon, getting through twice as much work as anyone else.
Some will point to the penalties he conceded. There is no denying that this is a big black mark against his name. But he should not be written off based on this.
Inevitably there are times when players will make the wrong decision, especially when they have to be made in a split-second. McCaw is no exception. It is worth considering that the All Blacks found themselves on defence for large periods of the second half, too.
During these periods, sometimes you have to take a risk or two to get your team out of trouble. With McCaw being the best breakdown exponent on his team, it was natural that he was the one that would look to take the chance.
Does that mean that he should be blamed for giving away the penalty? If his team had not been on the back foot he most likely would not have found himself in the position where the risk was needed. Surely this needs to be considered as well.
No one got through more work and no one was more important in the All Blacks’ brilliant defensive effort than McCaw. While Hooper was more prominent on attack, he was playing outside a pack who were more dominant in the second half and consequently had more ball to work with.
McCaw played a tighter game. The horrible conditions dictated this, as they made it tough for expansive rugby. Seeing as Kieran Read was standing wider, it was hardly prudent to have two loose forwards ranging in this way in these conditions.
The physicality he brings to the game makes him just as effective playing this way as he is when playing a looser game. No other openside flanker in world rugby can claim to possess the ability to play both styles to the level of McCaw. He is more physical and more aggressive than the others.
This is not to say that others cannot do it well. Hooper no doubt has more than one string to his bow, with an adept running game, along with his strong defensive game and tireless work-rate. But he is largely a player who will flourish in the loose.
Sam Warburton is a very good defensive player and breakdown specialist, but he is nowhere near McCaw’s level in the tight and does not have the same running game.
Sean O’Brien is perhaps the next best, an aggressive player, who is a strong ball-carrier and has a real in-your-face type approach. Thierry Dusautoir, is in a similar mould, although he has a higher defensive work rate.
There are undoubtedly some good openside flankers around at the moment. But McCaw’s versatility makes him the most valuable.
Not only can he play to different game plans, it gives the selectors more flexibility in who to pick around him, knowing that McCaw can fill multiple roles.
The All Blacks are no longer at a stage where they are as reliant on McCaw as they were five years ago. Sam Cane has emerged as a genuinely good back-up, tackling, running and exploiting the breakdown like a young McCaw did. But he does not have the physical presence of McCaw.
Bringing him into the team would shift the balance of the loose forwards. They would become far looser and would not allow Kieran Read to range the way he does so effectively.
Aside from his versatility, McCaw brings experience and leadership capabilities that cannot be coached in the short-term. He has won everything there is to win in the game and knows how to deal with tough situations. These will be as important as anything going into next year’s World Cup.
The idea that he is over the hill has little substance.
He has changed his game. There is still no openside flanker in world rugby who can match his versatility, intelligence, experience and leadership. He is still as good as any in the world and remains an important cog in the All Blacks machine going forward.

Where are the weaknesses that the All Blacks have to fix if they are to stay ahead of the world ?

OPINION: Love the rain. Give me a stick of dynamite and I would blow the roof off the Millennium Stadium. Wet weather rugby is a whole new ball game. It demands a higher skill level, a flexible tactical mind and it gives the fate of the contest to the forwards. Suddenly these All Blacks didn’t look half the team that some people had assumed they were.

Don’t tell me the conditions were impossible or that they ruined the spectacle. And don’t tell it to the 39,523 people, it is still hard to believe the size of the crowd, who were jammed into Wellington’s Athletic Park back in 1996. The conditions that day were far worse than they were in Sydney last weekend, because a howling wind drove the rain, but those All Blacks played the rugby of the gods.

Craig Dowd, Zinzan Brooke, Michael Jones, Frank Bunce, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and the rest of that wonderful side made three unforced errors in 80 minutes. They scored six tries, many of them sublime, in thrashing the Wallabies 43-6. Several of that Australian squad would go on to win the World Cup three years later.

Rugby is a game for all weathers. You remember the All Blacks who played at Stradey Park at the end of the 80s. The wind was so severe that when the Llanelli first-five tried to take a drop-out, the ball blew back over his head.

The All Blacks did not build much of a lead with the wind and the Welsh punched the air at half-time. But in the second half Wayne Shelford’s men stuck the ball up the jumper and did not concede a point in an exhibition of control.

These are the standards that the current team must aspire to and at the moment they fall a long way short. So what went wrong on Saturday. Where are the weaknesses that the All Blacks have to fix if they are to stay ahead of the world and not relapse at another overseas World Cup.

(1) Tactically the All Blacks seem to have stalled. The game plan that worked so well early in Steve Hansen’s reign, a variation on the Crusaders game of stacking the edges with ball-playing forwards, has been worked out by the opposition. France and Argentina were the first to adapt last year, and since then most teams have managed to contain the All Blacks with a rushing inside defence and an outside drift. Since that monumental victory in South Africa, New Zealand have played seven games, and in six of them the average margin of victory is under four points. The trick of international rugby is staying ahead of the game, to keep moving. No wonder Hansen is desperate to get Wayne Smith on board. His legacy may well depend on it.

(2) Defensive speed. What was so puzzling about the All Blacks on Saturday was the passiveness of their defence. They were more aggressive on their own line, but in most parts of the field they held back. As they had decided to kick the ball back to Australia and play off defensive turnovers, a la South Africa 2007, you might have expected more attack in the defence. But they let the Australians come on and still missed a ton of tackles, the front row being particularly culpable. Contrast with Australia. Like the Waratahs they rush the first receiver, with Michael Hooper smashing Aaron Cruden early on. Smartly, in defence, the Wallabies had Matt Toomua at first receiver and brought Rob Horne in from the wing to play ’12’ inside Ashley-Cooper with Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau dropped deep on the flanks. Hansen’s smart-alec comments about Beale playing at 10 grotesquely underestimated the flexibility of Australia’s game plan.

(3) Penalties. It is a worry that refs have caught up with Richie McCaw who, as in the Super 15 final, was pinged a lot on Saturday (four times). With the captain’s authority diminished, the rest of the team is now exposed. Wyatt Crockett is another serial defender. Beauden Barrett was unlucky to receive a yellow card, as no ruck was formed, justice was done – a few moments earlier, during a desperate passage on the New Zealand line, Fekitoa was offside, Mealamu was off his feet and Owen Franks was slowing the ball down. Astonishingly no yellow card. But bottom line, Richie needs to stop going in at the side.

(4) Fullback. This is a dilemma for Hansen. He wants to play Ben Smith, who is the best fullback, and who inspired two of New Zealand’s finest moments against Australia. But, Crusaders man as he is, Hansen is timid about counter-attacking from deep. And if they won’t launch from their own half, then the All Blacks miss the sheer length and accuracy of Israel Dagg’s kicking.

(5)First-five. Cruden made a try-saving tackle and put in some fine chip kicks, but he also blew an overlap on a turnover when he broke himself and made a couple of unforced errors. Dan Carter’s tactical awareness and defensive shrewdness in partnership with Conrad Smith are starting to be missed.

(6)Front five. The locks are both very fine players, but they are quite similar players. The All Blacks lack an enforcer who really shifts bodies and they are physically short in the front row. They do not compare to Dowd, Fitzpatrick, Brown, Robin Brooke and Ian Jones, the class of ’96.

(7) Back row. Whisper it, but Jerome Kaino made two big errors on Saturday. When Sam Cane came on he won the first back row turnover penalty in the entire match for New Zealand. Is it time to shift Richie to 6?

- Stuff

HMS Iron Duke will receive a 21 gun salute when it nears Robben Island around 7:30 tomorrow morning

The South African Navy will welcome a British Royal Navy ship to Cape Town in grand style.

The HMS Iron Duke will receive a 21 gun salute when it nears Robben Island around 7:30 tomorrow morning (20 Aug 2014).

The vessel left the UK in June on operational deployment.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

HMS Iron Duke is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy, and the third ship to bear the name.

Iron Duke was launched on 2 March 1991 by Lady Jane King in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

Capetonians are used to hearing the sound of the noon gun at least once a day.

But tomorrow will be different.

The Navy’s Chief Petty Officer, Dudley Malgas says the Signal Hill Noon Gun will be used in a 21 gun salute to welcome the HMS Iron Duke.

“They will follow with their 21 gun salute, and we will then respond with our 21 gun salute.”

It’s going to be a noisy affair, but Malgas has welcomed spectators on Signal Hill tomorrow.

Cape Town in September is an exciting time, especially if you’re a fan of spring and Roeshdien Jaz

The day to diarise is Saturday 27 September. That’s when the “Perfect mood”, “Feel for life”, “Inside ’n out” and “Love is in the house” hit maker, along with his five-piece band, will take to The Nassau Centre’s stage on Palmyra Road in Newlands.

 

The theme of the Multi-talented, Singer/Songwriter, Lifestyle Coach and Inspirational Speaker’s concert is all about taking some time out, to celebrate the gift of life. To reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in our lives right now. “It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s wrong with our lives and the world right now,” Roeshdien says. “Granted, that needs to be acknowledged. There are equally as many things to be grateful for. This special evening is an invitation to everyone, and anyone, to join the amazing Siphokazi Jonas and I, in The Gratitude Café.

 

Inspired by a group that Roeshdien and a friend started on Facebook, The Gratitude Café, which has subsequently, evolved into a show that will play out a fusion of Jazz, Soul, Funk, Reggae and Spoken word/Poetry come 27 September 2014. The entire show promises patrons music, lyrics, socially conscious, with a commercial appeal. “It’s a show where like-minded people can connect and share the things that they are grateful for in their lives right now,” Roeshdien explains. “I will be performing all my popular radio singles and also pay special tribute to some of my biggest inspirations. Picture this…the spirit of Sir Francis Albert Sinatra, Robert Nesta Marley, Sergio Mendes, Jamiroquai, Brendan Adams to name a few, all in the same space for one night only.”

 

Add a remarkable opening act Siphokazi Jonas, a member of the Exodus Klan Poetry Collective, to the night’s proceedings and patrons can look forward to some socially conscious poetry. In June this year she shared the stage with two well-known American poets, Janette…Ikz and Ezekiel, on the Cape Town leg of their South African tour. Siphokazi is also part of the ‘Cape Town Collaborative’, established by the ‘Epiphany Band’, a collaboration consisting of five vocalists and two poets who recently released the women’s day song and video, “I am woman”.

ROESHDIEN JAZ

ROESHDIEN JAZ

Look out for the launch of the ‘Roeshdien Jaz’, new look website (www.roeshdienjaz.com), special prizes up for grabs, and the official worldwide digital release of his two popular radio singles, “Inside n out” and “Love is in the house”. (iTunes, Amazon etc.). Three of his songs have just been confirmed to be used in the popular South African weekday soapie, Isidingo. Add the promise of a full debut album to be released in the Summer 2014, and of course the much anticipated, ‘Roeshdien Jaz Live, ‘The Gratitude Café’ concert, is sure to be a night to remember…#Uplift&Inspire

 

Concert tickets go live on the 22 August 2014 at 9am. Early bird booking discount price of R130 up until the 31 August. Thereafter a normal price of R150 applies, all via Computicket. The MC for the evening is no other than The Distinguished Gentleman, Andre Solomon.

 

For more information contact:
Triple M Entertainment
Martin Myers
E-mail: martin@triplementertainment.co.za
Mobile: +27 83 448 4475

All Black coach Hansen hint’s strongly at dissatisfaction over the refereeing of South African Jaco Peyper

The All Blacks will be sweating on the fitness of star second five-eighths Ma’a Nonu ahead of next Saturday’s Bledisloe rematch against the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Coach Steve Hansen confirmed today in Sydney, shortly before making the journey back across the Tasman, that Nonu and loose forward Jerome Kaino were the main fitness concerns in the wake of last night’s disappointing 12-12 draw at the Olympic Stadium to open the Rugby Championship.

Nonu is carrying a worrying shoulder injury and Hansen said scans will be needed in Auckland tomorrow before the veteran midfielder’s readiness for the rematch can be ascertained.

“His shoulder is sore, and we’re not sure exactly what’s wrong with it yet,” Hansen said. “Once we’ve done that we’ll find out more about where he’s at. But I’d say we’ll be sweating on whether he’s right or not next week.”

Nonu’s presence would be badly missed by an All Blacks outfit with plenty to prove back at Eden Park where they haven’t lost in 20 years. They were well short of their own high standards in Sydney, where their 17-test winning streak was undone by a Wallabies side that was gutted not to have stolen a famous victory.

It’s the second time in three seasons the Wallabies have ended a notable All Blacks winning streak with a draw, following on from the 18-18 stalemate in Brisbane in 2012 that ended a then run of 16 straight victories.

If Nonu was ruled out of the second test of the Rugby Championship and potential Bledisloe Cup clincher for the All Blacks, Ryan Crotty is his likely replacement, though Hansen said rookie Malakai Fekitoa would also be considered.

Long-time Nonu midfield partner Conrad Smith is expected to rejoin the team in Auckland after he’d made a late dash back to Wellington on Friday to attend the birth of his first child. “Things seem to be progressing all right there,” added Hansen.

Kaino has a sore elbow and he too would receive scans to determine the extent of the injury. Liam Messam or Steven Luatua would be the replacement options on the blindside flank.

Hansen said today he hadn’t lost any sleep over a pretty unsatisfactory performance all round.

“There’s no point worrying about spilt milk. It’s about getting on with the job, getting back on the horse and starting back at one. It’s the same job – you’re trying to prepare to win a game of rugby,” he said.

“There’s always disappointment but there’s no point losing sleep over it. You’re playing sport, some days you’re not going to get the result you want. You’ve got to be a big boy, take it on the chin and move on.”

But Hansen did hint strongly at dissatisfaction over the refereeing of South African Jaco Peyper who was particularly hard on his team around the tackle. The coach felt the second sinbinning of Beauden Barrett had been a particularly tough call.

Asked if he was “confused” about Peyper’s rulings, Hansen said: “I don’t want to go there. We’ll sort that out with him. There’s no point in us having a conversation about the referee when he’s not here. It’s a conversation he and I will have and we’ll try to get some understanding.”

Hansen also shrugged off suggestions that the Wallabies had suddenly taken their game to a new level, and had taken the All Blacks by surprise.

“I don’t think they’re that different,” he said. “They’ve got a confidence in their game and they’re all playing for each other. But Australian teams are always tough to play, and when you get those weather conditions as well it makes for a difficult night.”

The major positive for the All Blacks who uniformly regarded the draw as a defeat is they now return to Eden Park where they have won their last 32 straight tests in a winning streak spanning two decades.

“It’s the big stadium, it holds the most people and a lot of the big games are played there,” said Hansen when asked why his team performed so well at their Auckland stronghold. “Your top athletes enjoy being in the big arenas and playing against the best teams.”

The All Blacks have some major statements to make on Saturday night after a middling effort in Sydney. Eden Park seems as good a place as any to make them.

- Stuff

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