No last-minute indecision for Kiwis

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen (left) discussing tactics with captain Richie McCaw at training in Cardiff last week.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen (left) discussing tactics with captain Richie McCaw at training in Cardiff last week.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • One lesson the All Blacks have taken from the disputed Australia-Scotland Rugby World Cup quarter-final is that they cannot leave the outcome of their semi-final against South Africa to the referee.

"That showed us that if the game's tight at the end, anything can happen," All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said on Monday.

And he expects a similar nail-biting finish when the All Blacks play arch-rivals South Africa on Saturday to decide who will go through to the final against Australia or Argentina.

After reviewing the controversial end to the Australia-Scotland match, World Rugby said referee Craig Joubert was wrong when he awarded a last-minute penalty that secured Australia's 35-34 victory over Scotland.

Foster said it would be up to the All Blacks to avoid being put in the same situation.

"It's semi-finals and it's going to come down to the wire. We know that and we're just going to do everything we can this week to prepare well and control what we can control," he said.

The All Blacks have already closed the door on their emphatic quarter-final victory over France, when the referee could not influence the landslide outcome. In a gala display of running rugby, New Zealand scored nine tries to oust France 62-13.

"It's back to square one," Foster said. "The challenge is very obvious. We all know it and we've just got to make sure the full stop we've put on France stays there and we start from zero again."

It has been drilled into the All Blacks that they will have to be better than they were against France if they are to beat South Africa.

"Obviously there's a lot riding on the game so the intensity will be right up there," flanker Sam Cane said. "It'll be some fine margins in key moments that are likely to decide it."

The medical team, too, will play a key role in preparing the side to face South Africa. Training routines will be juggled to keep the players fresh while preparing for the bruising clashes expected against the hugely physical Springboks.

"We try to measure it. We talk a lot to the medical side of our team to see where and when we can do that just to make sure we have a hit," Foster said.

"Clearly you can't walk totally away from it because (on) Saturday against South Africa, physicality is going to be top of the list."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'No last-minute indecision for Kiwis'. Subscribe