Ma'a Nonu: The silver fern keeps firing me up

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014
Ma'a Nonu
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BIG UNIT: Ma'a Nonu will be able to give the All Blacks' backline genuine punch this weekend.

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Ma'a Nonu has confronted enough adversity to take most challenges in his stride.

This week is no different. You'd never know he is preparing for an Australian onslaught in Sydney.

With his future secure at the Hurricanes next year, Nonu now seems content in every way. He knows the next 18 months will probably form the closing chapter of his coveted New Zealand career and he's clearly determined to savour each and every moment.

"When I left the Canes I didn't know where I was heading in terms of Super Rugby but my sole purpose was to make the All Blacks. Every time, every year," he said. "Despite people talking about me changing franchises I wanted to play good rugby.

"I try and keep my standards high to be in this side. There will come a day when you're not going to be in this team. When you're not, the feeling changes, so for me it's about enjoying it while you can. It's never been a chore. I've always had to fight to be fit and help my body be the best it can."

Twenty tests against Australia and the lure of the Bledisloe Cup still holds true. Don't underestimate its place or importance to this team, or the country as a whole.

Since 2008, Nonu has only lost three of those encounters and on many occasions terrorised numerous Wallaby midfield combinations.

"There has been a lot of onus on the Bledisloe Cup. For us as a team we're trying to reach new heights. Australia have won seven in a row. We know that. They know that. And we've won 17 in a row. It comes down to who wants it more. The team that has less errors and is the most composed will probably win."

This week the 32-year-old lines up against Brumbies playmaker Matt Toomua and in-form centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, but it would not surprise to see him repeatedly directed back on the inside channels towards Kurtley Beale, not a noted defender.

"They talk about Beale not being a great defensive player but I think he's worked hard in the last couple of years. He's an attacking weapon. We saw that this year with him playing probably his best Super Rugby season at second-five. We know Toomua is pretty good defensively."

Collectively, the All Blacks realise they were poor in the opening test of the year against England. While that same danger of rust also exists this week, an over-riding sense is they are more than ready to reassert their dominance, place one hand on the Bledisloe and clinch the tier-one world record in the process.

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"We talked about the level of expectation in terms of where we were in June. It wasn't where the All Blacks' standard should be. As you saw in the first test, a lot of us took for granted coming off Super Rugby, thinking we could just roll over and perform as All Blacks," Nonu said.

"A lot of us haven't had a lot of rugby in the past month so we've worked hard on our physical fitness. The preparation has to be key to hit the line at 8pm in Sydney. We want our skills to be crisp. We want our physicality to be dominant and we want our minds to be ready."

Like many of his team-mates, Nonu has been here before.

- Stuff

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