All Blacks: Big buzz soured

By Gregor Paul

He may find the test experience more demanding than he used to but Graham Henry found his sense of humour easily enough last night.

The All Black coach had a moan about Sanzar rules that mean only 28 of the 30-man All Black squad could fly out to South Africa this morning.

Asked when he would decide who to omit, Henry said: "Well we will have to make it tonight otherwise we will need a parachute or something ..."

The thought of having to leave two players behind was clearly preying on his mind.

"I don't understand the rules," he said. "It's something to do with money I guess. We are frustrated we can only take 28. It will be very disappointing for the two who are left out."

That was the only sour note for the coaching panel who had the bonus that all 22 players had come through unscathed.

The big buzz, though, was the way the All Blacks fought back from 10 points down and improved as the game went on.

"It was a game based on character," said Henry. "When you go behind by 10 points there is one of two ways you can go. Some of the players hadn't played for a while so we should get better as the Tri Nations goes on."

Captain Richie McCaw shared that view. "I was speaking with Conrad Smith and Andrew Hore who have also not played a lot recently. They said the same thing: That those first 20 minutes were about finding our feet at test level again.

"From my point of view the timing wasn't quite there and you try to force things. I got a better feel for the game as it went on."

The task now for McCaw and his comrades is to climb to a new level in South Africa.

Henry said those two tests would be treated as a series. His side are aware that the All Blacks, to date, have only one such series under their belts.

"Any tour of South Africa is a major. It is especially hard when you have to leave at half four in the morning but I'm sure that will galvanise us."

- Herald on Sunday

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