These All Blacks can get 'much' better
REACTION: The All Blacks may be riding the crest of the wave, but coach Steve Hansen feels the team can improve significantly.
Following New Zealand's humiliating 57-0 whitewash of South Africa in a Rugby Championship encounter in Albany at the weekend, Hansen rated the performance only a 'B-plus or an A-minus'.
The All Blacks secured their biggest winning margin against the Springboks in their final Test in front of their own fans before 2018, running in eight tries in a stunning display.
New Zealand thrashed Samoa 78-0 in Auckland in June, drew a three-match series with the British and Irish Lions and have now won all three of their Rugby Championship matches - two at home.
While Hansen has been pleased by the increasing strength in depth available to him, the failure to defeat the B&I Lions stopped him giving his team top marks.
"[It is] a B-plus or an A-minus," Hansen said when asked to assess the All Blacks' performances on their own patch this year.
"We drew a series we probably should have won. We were behind only three minutes in the whole series but we didn't score enough tries and play enough rugby.
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"We played pretty good against Australia. We showed composure. In the early part of the tournament I think the composure was outstanding; even against Argentina with a young team on the field when we could have crumbled after going behind at half-time.
"They get a big plus for that. The team is growing and the belief is growing. We saw [in Albany] some young players - I think of Ofa [Tu'ungafasi] and his performance. He's starting to really look like a Test tighthead prop.
"Codie Taylor had the opportunity when Dane [Coles] got injured [during the Lions series] and grew an arm and a leg. He comes on now and it's like we've lost nothing and you're talking about Dane Coles being the best hooker in the world."
Hansen was delighted by the margin of New Zealand's victory over South Africa, though he felt their start was sluggish.
"We're very, very proud of it. The boys had a good week. We're trying to get better all the time," said the coach.
"We've been working on different things and we came in tonight pretty clear about how we wanted to play and what we wanted to achieve and a lot of those things came off, so we're pretty happy.
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"I thought we were a bit jittery at the start. Once we got into the rhythm of the game I thought we played as well as we have played for a long time.
"Our defensive work is probably as good as we've ever had it. That made a big difference," he said.
"I think they [South Africa] are good side and the scoreboard probably doesn't reflect the margins between the two teams. We've seen a pretty good [All Black] performance and I think the South Africans forced that out of us."