All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has shot down the rumour that Sonny Bill Williams’ Rugby World Cup was over because of injury while at the same time playing down the importance of the team’s opening match against the Springboks.
Hansen smiled when the initial question in today’s media conference was if Williams had gone home overnight.
“No, he has not, he was very, very energetic today at training so whoever Hamish’s (McKay) close informant is obviously isn’t close enough,” Hansen said in reference to the source of the rumour.
The All Blacks drew the last Test against South Africa in Wellington after the teams split the two Tests last season, with Hansen saying there was not much between the old rivals.
Surprisingly, Hansen played down the importance of this Saturday’s match between rugby’s two traditional world powers to the overall tournament.
“Clearly this is going to be a big match because it’s the All Blacks versus South Africa, which is traditionally a big match anyway,” Hansen said.
“Logic would tell you that whoever wins this game probably wins the pool but as we found out in 2011, you don’t necessarily have to win the pool to get in the final, France did it the other way,” Hansen said.
“It’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the World Cup or get in the final if you win this game.”
“I don’t think we’ll muck around with the selections too much for this one.”
Playing against South Africa’s defensive systems where the wingers “roll the dice big time” bought its own challenges, Hansen said.
“Their defensive system has changed, they roll the dice big time, they’re fit, to roll the dice like they are so they’ve got to be fit, their wingers come off their wings and they’re good at it.”
“You’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to get your depth right, you’ve got to have a decent kicking game and you’ve got to have the right intent.”