Henry: I am very proud
Graham Henry (Gallo Images)
Auckland – “It was a special day for this team and a special day for All Blacks rugby. Our commitment and discipline was outstanding and we dominated the Springboks up front. I am very proud.”
That was the reaction of All Blacks coach Graham Henry after his side swept the floor with the Springboks in their first game in this year’s Tri-Nations.
“Our first-phase play was excellent and we put them under a lot of pressure. The senior guys showed they could still make a contribution and were outstanding,” Henry said when asked about the reasons for the easy victory.
“Players like Mils Muliaina and Tom Donnelly, who had not played for a long time, were very good. Kieran Read was excellent.”
Henry admitted that last year’s three consecutive defeats to the Springboks were a big reason for the team’s performance here.
“We were driven by last year’s results. I had a number of players that were desperate to play in this game,” he said.
“The Boks are still the number one side in the world as far as I’m concerned. But where we had to wait for a year after our defeat in Hamilton last year, we are getting another chance this coming weekend. We don’t want it to slip through our fingers.”
Henry believes they are capable of winning again.
“But we’ll just enjoy this one for now. It was a special performance and we’ll celebrate it properly and then start building towards what we want to achieve in Wellington.”
All Black captain Richie McCaw said he had not seen the headbutt by Bakkies Botha.
“It would not have contributed to our motivation. The guys have been waiting for this opportunity for a year,” he said.
He explained the reasons for the victory as follows.
“We finally succeeded in doing all the good things for 80 minutes. In the other games this year there were bits and pieces, but this time everything came together. We never gave the Boks a chance to draw breath,” said McCaw.
He believes the All Blacks have laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament.
“We know what we are capable of and won’t let our guard down. This is the standard we have to strive towards,” said the flank.
“The nice thing is that we know it didn’t just happen. We worked hard and it’s a sweet taste.”
Forwards coach Steve Hansen said that the team’s performances from the first phases were the best to date this year.
“We sent good quality ball to the backs and they could attack with it. We also put their backline under pressure,” he said.
Backline coach Wayne Smith said the players were also delighted that the Springboks could not score a single try.