Henry justifies high-risk strategy
August 1, 2009

All Blacks coach Graham Henry has fought to justify his side's expansive game-plan after a second consecutive Tri-Nations defeat to South Africa.

Henry's men went down 31-19 to the Springboks, being mercilessly punished by fly-half Morne Steyn. The Bulls pivot broke the Tri-Nations scoring record by landing all of the home side's points, slotting eight penalties conceded by the frantic All Blacks.

While losing the breakdown battle to Heinrich Brussow and the Springbok back-row, the All Blacks were forced to counter from deep inside their own territory with little success.

"The guys were trying to play the right style of football against this particular team," Henry said. "It's just that it's high risk, some of it. It's difficult when you're living off crumbs. When you're chasing your tail and you haven't got a lot of ball to play with, you push it. If we'd nailed a couple of the opportunities, it may turned the game around a wee bit for us."

Attack coach Wayne Smith said reverting to a kicking based game mid-test wouldn't have solved the All Blacks' problems.

"You kick long against this team and it relieves the pressure for about five seconds, two seconds maybe. Then it's coming back at you in the air with great chasers after it," Smith said. "We were slightly off with some of our decision-making and slightly off with some of our execution. We weren't that far away but far enough for us not to be in the game at the end."

South Africa coach Peter De Villiers was surprised that the All Blacks persisted with their high-risk game, which was also hindered by slippery conditions at Kings Park. The Springboks face Australia in Cape Town next weekend, and their coach is taking nothing for granted.

"That's the New Zealand way of playing the game, they try to put you under pressure at first phase, which they couldn't manage to do," De Villiers said. "But they tried to run the ball from there. They're a very good second phase team but they didn't have that space to play in.

"There are still four (Tri-Nations) games to be played. We're not as great as we think we should be. The platform is there, we know where to work from. We're so organised and we trust each other so much at the moment that the input of everybody plays a big role in this team."


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