New Zealand’s worst losing run against South Africa in 33 years, a 0-3 whitewash last year, is what helped the All Blacks turn their game around and made them mentally stronger.
It played a major role in their dominant form on the 2009 year-end tour and this year’s international season, according to All Black assistant coach Wayne Smith.
Smith, speaking to the media ahead of the Tri-Nations return Test against Australia in Christchurch on Saturday, gave an insight into the All Blacks’ white-hot form and the turnaround from last year’s poor Tri-Nations run.
“In many ways it was the best thing that happened,” Smith said of the Boks’ whitewash of the All Blacks, adding: “We went on a great northern [hemisphere] tour and we developed our game.
“To play the sort of [attacking] game that we wanted to play against France in Marseilles was a blueprint for what we’ve done this year. It created what’s happened this year.
“It makes you introspective and not to want to go through that pain again and it makes you work hard at trying to avoid it.”
Smith suggested that Australia could be similarly dangerous, as the Wallabies aim to avoid their worst-ever losing sequence against the All Blacks.
The Aussies have not beaten the Kiwis in eight Tests and another defeat in Christchurch would make it Australia’s worst losing sequence in this trans-Tasman rivalry ever.
“Every game is its own entity,” Smith said. “Anything can happen and what went before it is normally irrelevant.
“I can remember going to Tokyo last year [for the fourth Bledisloe Cup fixture] and we had a massive build-up to that game because you just want to keep winning.
“Past success guarantees nothing. You’ve just got to keep working at it, try to keep an edge, build for every game like it’s your last one and that’s what we try to do.”
Smith also felt that the dramatic change of rule interpretations this year suits the All Blacks’ attacking approach.
He added that his team got a jump-start on the rest of the world last year, when they stuck stubbornly to a counter-attacking, expansive approach.
“The laws more or less played into our hands,” he said.
“We did a lot of work on it [last season] and we got a bit of an advantage because we were swimming against the current by trying to play a ball in hand game.”
Smith was quick to warn that other teams won’t stay behind for too long.
“I guess that’s what coaches do. They look for teams that are performing well,” Smith said.
“We get a lot of our innovations through looking at the way the game is played [in the Super 14], take the best out of it and then try to put it together as the total package.
“But I think everyone will catch up and we’ll see the game evolve again… maybe there will be a lot of work on defensive lines and chasing lines.”
Smith scotched suggestions other nations lack players with the necessary athleticism and attacking gifts to match the 2010 All Blacks.
He said South Africa showcased the best offensive players in this year’s Super 14, while Australia had a massive base of natural athletes, who were spread through various sporting codes.
“We’re in a good position but I’m sure other teams would feel they’ve got the capabilities. You’ve just got to pick the right people to play that sort of game.”