Richie McCaw sends warning
Auckland - The All Blacks' 32-12 thrashing of world champions South Africa in the opening Tri-Nations rugby Test has set the benchmark for the season, warned All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
The four-tries to nil victory, as they out-muscled and out-ran the Springboks, helped erase the pain the All Blacks felt from losing all three Tests to South Africa last year.
But after waiting 12 months for revenge against their arch rivals, the All Blacks could not afford to become complacent because of one victory, McCaw said.
"That was the benchmark and there's no excuses for going back from that. If we are going to be successful in this Tri-Nations we have to play like that every week."
Head coach Graham Henry described the performance as "a special game" in which the All Blacks monstered the Springboks in the South Africans' set-piece comfort zone, including stealing the ball twice from acknowledged lineout king Victor Matfield.
But Henry warned the Springboks will be a different beast when they take the field in the second Test in Wellington next weekend.
"We know you don't beat teams like South Africa without them hurting," he said.
"They will be a wounded animal next week and they will play accordingly."
The Springboks will be forced to make at least one change with lock Bakkies Botha suspended for the rest of the Tri-Nations after receiving a nine-week ban for head-butting All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan.
Cowan was not injured but he did end the game with an abdominal strain and was in doubt for next week as were replacement centre Richard Kahui (shoulder) and left wing Joe Rokocoko (hamstring).
Henry admitted to being surprised by the 20-point margin of victory and noted the Springboks were leading the second half 9-7 until Tony Woodcock scored the bonus-point try on fulltime.
"Things will be more realistic in Wellington," he said, while adding he would not give a 100 percent pass mark although the All Blacks enjoyed 66 percent possession and forced the Springboks into 30 missed tackles.
"I think there's always room for improvement," said the All Blacks taskmaster. "The problem will be the Springboks will improve immeasurably I'd imagine next week so it will be a more difficult game."
Springboks captain John Smit had no complaints about the scoreline, saying the All Blacks were hungrier than his side, but he added his world champion side now had plenty of motivation going into the second Test.
"The positives are we can't do any worse and we've got a week to fix it," Smit said.
"We can look at the game a thousand times over and over-analyse it but there were many things we did completely out of character.
"Just losing will be motivation after this week. We are a team of high standards and as long as we can learn from these poor defeats then we will keep growing, but this was a disappointment to all of us."