Back-to-back wins huge for team confidence
Veteran lock Brodie Retallick relished the chance to be part of an All Blacks team that continued to build its level of performance when beating South Africa 35-20 in their Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
It was potentially his penultimate home Test for the All Blacks as he will move to Japan for a second stint at the end of the Rugby World Cup campaign. His last home Test, if selected, will be at Forsyth Barr Stadium against Australia next month.
"It's pleasing to win, we built on last week and it was awesome to come out and play in front of a home crowd again."
Retallick said the Springboks deserved credit for their second-half effort. They had come out and put the All Blacks under pressure, especially in their ability to exit their half.
"It was the second Test of the year, it was an improvement on last week, and we'll keep building on it as the year goes."
He said there had been a lot of attention paid to their starts this year, and that was something Joe Schmidt was driving.
"Getting people on their feet and getting in around the ball and tonight was an example of that, especially in the first 20. Those first two tries were about people getting around the ball and finding holes and when you've got outside backs as fast as some of those guys out there they can exploit it."
"We wanted to start well and apply some pressure and that's what we got."
South Africa was able to keep sending out big men as substitutes, and Retallick said the big men didn't seem to stop coming. But they knew that would happen and were braced for it. They got some lessons, and they won.
"That's what Test rugby is about, no one lets up, and it's an 80-minute game.
"It was an awesome step, we're two from two here and into our first week off and now we've got two against Australia. It would have been disappointing not to come away with a win tonight. The group's working hard. Coming home from Argentina was a quick turnaround, but everyone put their head down and got stuck in, so it's pleasing to see some reward from the hard work.
While he didn't play in Argentina, Rettalick said he felt no ill effects from the trip, which was the first time the side had come home from there and played a Test the following weekend. Usually, they had a week off.
Having back-to-back wins was huge for the confidence of the team. It was a big year with the Rugby World Cup at the end of it. The side had been working week-by-week, but he was most pleased about the hard work paying off.
Retallick said there was some improvement in the side from last season, but there were still things to get right.
"We can be pretty happy with what we've done the last couple of weeks and we'll keep looking to improve over the next few and with what's to come."