“It’s a lot different contest this week” – Jason Ryan
Up against their traditional rival South Africa in the first of three possible encounters in 2023, the All Blacks have plenty to improve on for Saturday's Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Adding to the importance of this first game is that it is a virtual Rugby Championship decider. They will also play a Rugby World Cup warm-up game next month and could meet in the quarterfinals of the Cup.
As comfortable as their win was in Mendoza, forwards coach Jason Ryan said there was still plenty to be done by the side.
"We're chipping away. We've still got a lot of work to do. We made some progress against a tough team in a tough place to play. It was good to put some things in place that we've been working on in the last couple of weeks."
However, he said, there was plenty of room for improvement in their carry and clean.
"Our scrum stood up, and we did have some top quality ball. It's a different game over there with the sun on your back. Mt Smart Stadium a little bit wet on a cold, dewy night...she's going to be a title fight. It's a lot different contest this week."
That was reinforced during what he called 'a ruthless review' on Tuesday. The second-half effort needed to have been better, and while a start had been made, they needed to keep raising the bar each week.
The Springboks showed by sending so many players over early to acclimatise that they mean business.
"They've sent those guys over early for a reason. They'll bring a bit of an edge with them coming over earlier. We've got to be right on.
"They're clear on their identity as a team of who they are around their forwards. Also, I thought they used the ball pretty well, a bit of space and got to some edges and trying different things. And they're a good defensive side. There's a few things we saw that are a little bit different."
"They're pretty clear on their DNA, the Boks, and you've got to respect them and admire them for it. They've got a pretty clear strategy, put the ball in the air, it will be a hell of a contest."
Ryan said Fletcher Newell suffered a broken hand during a wrestling exercise while training in Argentina last week and was likely to be out of action for three weeks.
"It's a niggle for him, but he'll get through what's required. He's a diligent man and will get himself right for sure."
Tevita Mafileo will stay on with the side as injury cover.
But Will Jordan's migraine condition and Mark Telea's knee strain had both recovered and were available for selection. Leicester Fainga'anuku was only in a 50-50 position to play.
Lock Sam Whitelock was less clear with Ryan, saying he was 'progressing well'.
In their absences through injury, in Argentina, Ryan said other players stood up.
"That exactly what we wanted – to build some selection depth and confidence for anyone who gets their opportunity."
On Saturday @ardiesavea brought up 250 First Class Games 🔥— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 11, 2023
All Blacks Tests - 71
All Blacks Games - 2
NZ U20 - 5
Hurricanes - 131
Wellington - 36
Barbarians - 2
First Class Fixtures - 3
Congrats brother 🖤 pic.twitter.com/nXObOYJZJF