OPINION: Rooting out complacency shouldn't be a problem for the All Blacks this week because they were well off their game in Sydney.
Once the positive vibes of a first up Rugby Championship win subside, the All Blacks should be a tad concerned that an average Wallabies team were not put away earlier in Sydney. There were plenty of encouraging words in the aftermath from coach Steve Hansen, who rightly took satisfaction from a 27-19 win on Australian soil.
But as the All Blacks review their performance they will know there is much to work on.
Hansen will not be pleased with the number of times his side's attack faltered when opportunity knocked.
Continuity was a rare commodity for an All Blacks side that scored two pleasing set piece tries, but otherwise failed to build concerted pressure through patience.
There were careless passes from Israel Dagg, Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams and unforced handling errors from Cory Jane and Kieran Read.
Liam Messam allowed himself to be twice dragged into touch, a kick off was left to bounce and Dan Carter even missed touch from a penalty.
The lineout, though accurate, delivered a variety of tricky balls for halfback Aaron Smith, which in turn thwarted the All Blacks' ability to use their big backs to set up phase ball.
A big positive was the defence, which was organised and quick off the line, successful in unsettling the Wallabies' first receivers, and to earn turnovers by keeping the ball off the ground and shutting down Will Genia around the ruck.
But it cannot be overlooked that Australia fumbled through the first half and generally offered little in attack, yet got within a converted try of winning as the final whistle approached.
Hansen noted a short buildup, but the All Blacks will know they should have ended the contest earlier in the piece. They set the highest of standards and will expect and probably deliver a big improvement in Auckland.
Captain Richie McCaw immediately noted the pitfalls of relaxing into the comfort of a good first up win when he mentioned the narrow 22-19 second test win against Ireland in June.
“History shows when we play back to back tests, if we don't get our prep right, it shows [on the field] and we had a lesson like that when we played Ireland,” he said.
“If you don't prepare well and turn up expecting it to happen, you will come unstuck. That's our challenge to get past this game and work out ways we can turn up and play get better. There's no doubt the Wallabies will do that.”
And the All Blacks should be wary because last year it was the Australians who improved most, bouncing back from a 30-14 loss in Auckland to beat South Africa and New Zealand to win the then Tri-Nations title.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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