New Zealand Rugby
Hansen unfazed by form of All Blacks stars
May 4, 2013
Steve Hansen believes Aaron Smith has been trying to do too much for the Highlanders © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is unconcerned by the lack of form shown by several of his top-flight All Blacks players in Super Rugby.
Hansen, who will name his squad for three home Tests against France on June 2, is confident Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg and a clutch of winless Highlanders players including second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu, halfback Aaron Smith and front-rowers Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock can rediscover their best form in the black jersey.
And his comments in an interview with Radio Sport suggest he will stay largely loyal to the 2012 squad who lost just one of their 14 Tests. "I know some of them are out of form but we've got the opportunity to get them back into form when they come to us," Hansen said. "There's usually a reason why someone's not playing well and if the reason's fixable then there's no point panicking about it. The players we're talking about have got the mental capacity to come into the All Blacks and play well. Sometimes that change of environment is all that is needed, or a subtle change in what they're doing."
Hansen says Nonu, Woodcock and Hore have struggled with injury while Smith has been trying to take on too much himself at the last-placed Highlanders. Smith benefited from being dropped from one game last month, Hansen said. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder also had done the right thing in benching Dagg this weekend, Hansen said, even though the Crusaders face the Super Rugby-leading Brumbies in Canberra. "Every time he's interviewed, [Dagg] is telling us he's not playing well. He's going out and trying harder and harder, and he's trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Toddy's done the right thing; he's given him a breather. He's told him: 'you go away and get de-cluttered and come back and do what you need to do in your position.' Which is the basics, really."
Hansen says it is close to impossible for any player to be in peak form through the long Super Rugby season. He said All Blacks players traditionally needed 10-12 weeks to hit their stride due to their short pre-season build-up, and he had noticed several had improved in recent rounds.