ABs focus on Springboks

2012-10-01 10:00
La Plata - It might be a proud addition to the New Zealand Rugby Union's trophy cabinet, and earned in a manner that suggested the All Blacks are capable of achieving yet another significant milestone, but Steve Hansen distanced himself from the spoils of the Rugby Championship before the team departed for Johannesburg.

According to stuff.co.nz website, the All Blacks head coach's first response where revisiting a sublime 54-15 victory over Los Pumas in La Plata on Sunday night was to lift the new symbol of southern hemisphere rugby supremacy from the top table of the conference room in the team's Buenos Aires hotel on Sunday and discard it on the floor, almost as an irrelevance.

"That's dead and gone," he said, emphasising the world champions' tendency to quickly reset goals and implement methods to attain them.

New Zealand's priority now - after administering a brutal reality check to the competition's newcomers at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata - is to complete the tournament unbeaten by dispatching their oldest foe, South Africa, in Soweto on Saturday.

Maintaining their unbeaten record at the spiritual home of 2010 World Cup - two years after two late tries secured an unlikely 29-22 triumph at Soccer City - and the All Blacks end the expanded Tri-Nations just one match shy of equalling the record for consecutive victories by major test playing nations.

A compelling seven-try master class in what was historically a hostile and challenging environment, has the personnel contemplating a 16th straight win in Johannesburg before the sequence set by New Zealand (1965-69) and South Africa (1997-98) can be matched by sweeping the Bledisloe Cup series at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on October 21, and then eclipsed at Murrayfield in November.

All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read, who led the team for the final quarter once Richie McCaw was given a well-earned rest, said the world champions setting a new benchmark was enticing.

"We're aware of it (the record), it's good for us to have it in our minds but it's not going to mean that you're going to show up and win.

"It's great we've been able to win the championship away from home, this place has never been easy for us so it's really exciting for this group.

"I guess there's a pretty special moment next week if we can get it right too, we'll be doing all we can to do that."

Hansen was not as forthcoming about the potential of the first year of his reign to coincide with another accolade, preferring to reflect on the quality of the performance against a Los Pumas side that had stressed the All Blacks during their two previous visits to the Argentine capital.

"The focus is on having another good performance," he said as the team packed up for a nine-hour flight to the high veld.

 "It's nice we've won a trophy but it's more about performance. Trophies and clean sweeps and records are all a by-product of a team preparing well and playing well."

However, despite his measured approach not even Hansen could deny the likelihood of New Zealand's post-World Cup squad reinforcing their status as the no 1-ranked nation.

"If we prepare genuinely and honestly, we've got enough talent to beat anyone so we will be hard to beat."

That's just the truth," he said.

The All Blacks depart Buenos Sires with no major injury concerns - unlike the Wallabies who travel in the opposite direction to take on Argentina in Rosario next weekend without key backs Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Conrad Smith and Luke Romano looked the worse for wear after needing stitches to close facial injuries but otherwise it was just the standard bumps and bruises to rest on the next stage of their expedition.

Meanwhile, Hansen downplayed an incident where replacement pivot and goal kicker Aaron Cruden was targeted by a laser light as he was lining up the final conversion after the siren had sounded.

"It's one of those things. It's not a big deal, it concerns me more when they're doing it to pilots when they're flying a plane. One individual's actions can't be held against everybody. It was a special atmosphere."

Cruden saw the light beam on the ground near the ball but it did not put him off his stride before he converted Cory Jane's hattrick try from a difficult angle.

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