Twickenham Test a good dress rehearsal
If the All Blacks are looking for a pick-me-up after their record 7-35 loss to South Africa at Twickenham on Friday, they need only look at the example set by the Springboks.
In 2017, when suffering a 0-57 loss, still the most significant losing margin in games between the sides, the Springboks turned their game around to lose by only one point in the return game at Newlands in Cape Town.
They could also reflect on their recovery in 2022 after suffering a first Test 10-26 loss to beat the Springboks 35-23 in their spiritual fortress at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The difference would be their next opponent, France, will be playing their first game of the World Cup in Paris in front of a massive partisan crowd.
Foster said Friday's game had been, 'in many ways a perfect storm'.
"We had seven players who hadn't played in four weeks and they needed this game. Our mindset was to go in really hard at it. I thought we looked rusty."
Foster said South Africa was outstanding in how they pressured the All Blacks in the areas they sought to do that. It coincided with a red card, and that was the game.
"It was a game we needed and we'll make sure we use that in a fortnight's time."
Foster said it was the second Test in a row they had been penalised early at scrums, which they had been doing well, so they would need to look at that. While they had been correctly penalised at their first lineout, they wanted more clarity on the concept of an opponent being thrown across the line.
Prop Tyrel Lomax had suffered a nasty cut that went through to muscle and had 30 stitches, some of them internal, and he would be in a brace for four or five days while it healed. His long-term prospects were good, although he was unlikely to be fit for the World Cup opener.
"We're confident. It didn't look like that, and I know we got a good spanking, so I'm not hiding from that fact. We're not panicking about that result.
"We knew we were going to get challenged. It's not the result we wanted. I still believe in the plan. I still believe the group that needed to play played. Scott [Barrett], not as long as I would've liked.
"We've now got a good litmus test of where we're at. Everyone is in the same boat after this weekend. We've got to use our camp in Germany really smart and go into France and get stuck into what's going to be an exciting World Cup.
"There was a lot of emotion in the sheds afterwards, but we've just got to calm down and say 'that's World Cups'. If you're looking for a dress rehearsal that's perfect."
However, Foster said the fact discipline was the first thing that faltered when the side was put under pressure was the one thing that bugged the coaches.
"We've been making big strides in that. Discipline covers a whole lot of things. How do you deal with a ref's decision you don't quite agree with? How do you respond to that? Some of the decision issues early were over-eager and trying too hard. We can get more clinical in that.
Foster said they absorbed so much pressure in the first 15 minutes only to make errors that saw Barrett and Sam Cane sin-binned, and then when attempting to break out, second five-eighths Jordie Barrett had a false off-load that was intercepted, resulting in a try.
"That's also the discipline area, so it's not just obeying the laws. It's how we execute. If we had been able to counter punch at that point, it might have been a different game. But [in] big games you have few big moments and you've got to get good at them."
Foster said dealing with the psychological impact of such a loss after what had been shaping as improved form was up to the team management.
"When you look at the bigger picture about what we wanted to achieve out of that game, we got everything we expected. We didn't deal with it as well as we expected.
"We've got to go and fix that. We've got a lot of belief in what we've been doing. We know that the first game of the World Cup is big."
It would be a game similar to what the Springboks inflicted on the All Blacks, and Foster expected them to be attacked similarly by the French.
"We know we're going to need to be at our best, particularly at that set piece area."