ALL BLACKS assistant coach Steve Hansen understands why the Springboks have decided to rest players for the away leg of the Tri Nations.
A second-string South African side was thrashed by the Wallabies in the tournament opener after coach Peter de Villiers decided to leave 21 ’injured’ front-line players back in South Africa for the matches in Australia and New Zealand.
De Villiers is set to field another woefully understrength side when the All Blacks play the Boks in Wellington this Saturday.
While fans in this part of the world are up in arms, saying their decision makes a mockery of the Tri Nations and the great rivalry with the All Blacks, forwards coach Hansen could understand their logic behind the move.
“No, I think South Africa have done what's right for their team,” he told reporters today.
“The most important tournament of the year is the Rugby World Cup and every rugby nation is looking at that as the case. So they've looked at their team and they've obviously got a lot of injuries or guys that are niggly, guys that are tired, just like our guys and they've decided they'll throw the Tri Nations opportunity to win the game.
“They can sit at home, where I imagine they'll play their top sides, which will prepare them well for the World Cup. If you win the World Cup and don't win the Tri Nations, regardless of what country does it, who cares? If we won the World Cup and didn't win the Tri Nations, do you think people will be complaining about the Tri Nations? I can't see too many and it will be the same in South Africa, same in Australia.”
While the 21 ‘injured’ Springboks were at a training camp in Cape Town, their teammates were doing it tough against the Wallabies in Sydney.
However, despite that result, Hansen has warned against writing off South Africa, saying its younger players will be better off for the experience.
"I think you'll see a different beast... I think we should be expecting a vastly improved Springbok side. Two reasons: one they've been beaten and they'll be hurting and the second reason is they've had that game under their belts."
Meanwhile, Hansen confirmed Richie McCaw would start at openside flanker, not No 8 as was reported earlier this week after he trained there.
Hansen says the All Blacks skipper was still seen as a specialist openside but without the services of regular eightman Kieran Read, the coaching staff needed to cover their bases.
"He'll be wearing the No 7 jersey and he will be the openside flanker. He's the best No 7 in the world so I'm hoping his long term future is at No 7.
“We need to have flexibility in the loose forwards and at the moment the flexibility of him being able to go to 8 allows us to give Reado the time out of the environment that he needs. So I wouldn't read too much into it, there's no big plans to turn Richie McCaw into a No 8 other than when we need him to play there as a back-up player."« Back to Articles
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