In their quest for improvement, the All Blacks want to ensure they are able to adjust quickly to the tactical nuances of opponents and the Springboks at Albany on Saturday will provide another variation on that theme.
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock said ahead of 2017’s first Rugby Championship Test between the two old rivals that teams were smart enough now to keep changing pictures making it harder for teams to read them.
“I think that’s what good teams do, they make you make decisions whether it be under pressure through bringing line speed or them holding off,” he told the All Blacks’ official website.
Whitelock said there was a developing confidence among the South Africans that he had detected in games for the Crusaders against the Lions, and in watching their games on television.
“When teams are confident things normally come off for them and from watching their first couple of games they are playing typical South African rugby,” he said.
They’re big strong guys, carrying hard and using their skill when they release the ball and go wide. I think that confidence is massive for them and for any team.”
The modus operandi of the All Blacks this year as opposed to last was fuelled by the drive to be continually getting better.
“We’re always looking to see if there is a little bit extra that we can get better at right across the board, whether it be an individual, in our units of backs or forwards or as a team,” added Whitelock.
“That’s the main thing, if there’s one or two percent we can get better we’re searching for that.
“At times it’s hard, but when you do achieve it, it is great.”
Whitelock saw similarities between himself and the Springbok captain and lock Eben Etzebeth. Both were selected early and gone through the steep learning curve associated with playing Test rugby. Etzebeth had grown and got really involved and seemed to be enjoying his leadership role in the side.
“When you’re enjoying it, you’re generally playing great rugby,” he said.
Tests against the Springboks were ones that everyone wanted to be associated with. Throughout the history of rivalry between the countries it was the Springboks Tests that people talked about for 10, 20 or 30 years afterwards, he said.
“The thing I really love about it is they a big, strong guys and there’s a physical battle and they really pride themselves on it so you always know it’s going to be physical,” said Whitelock.