All Blacks: No change of plan needed - Henry

By Michael Brown

All Blacks coach Graham Henry won't be changing his tactics of using the ball before the World Cup. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks coach Graham Henry won't be changing his tactics of using the ball before the World Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Graham Henry is not a man who's easily swayed - some might call him belligerent - and he won't abandon his expansive approach to rugby before the next World Cup.

The Springboks are a clinical and successful side. They know what works for them and play within the parameters of that.

They also have the silverware to show for it. Last night, they added the Tri Nations to a burgeoning trophy cabinet that also includes the biggest of all - the William Webb Ellis Trophy.

Henry would love to get his hands on the World Cup. In fact, it drives him and a group of players still haunted by that night in Cardiff two years ago.

But he said last night he has no plans to change the All Blacks' approach and copy the Springboks.

New Zealand teams of the recent past have used the ball, believing their strength is in giving the ball some air from the hand rather than the boot.

"Hopefully not," Henry said when asked if a kicking game was the way of the future.

"I think if we can set a foundation up front, we have to use the ball. We need a balance to try to upset their defensive pattern but we just have to hold onto it. At times we broke the line and lost the ball in the tackle. The right balance is keeping the ball in the hand with some kicking."

He's right about a platform. The All Blacks were dreadful at times last night. Their basic skill level was often substandard. They made seven handling errors and turned the ball over 13 times. They also lost five throws on their own lineout. These are the basics of the game. It wasn't until the last 20 minutes that they gained any headway.

"There was still some good football played out there, especially in the last 20 minutes," Henry said. "We got it together in the finish but it took too long so we have to try to stamp our authority on the game earlier and for that, you need a foundation and you need to look after the ball. We didn't have a foundation consistently enough for 60 minutes to put pressure on.

"Rugby is a basic game. It's about the pace of the game. It's about quality first-phase ball and getting over the advantage line. When we achieved these things [last night], we looked likely."

The All Blacks have made an art form of peaking between World Cups. Maybe they are adopting a new approach.

The Springboks, though, are convinced they can carry their form on for another two years. They have a simple enough game plan and, at the moment, the personnel to carry it out.

"What we got right is the blend," coach Peter de Villiers said, "and we don't resort to one style of game. We still have work to do and we won't sit back and think that it will happen for us. This team can go places."

Henry believes his can, too. Only time will tell if he has the right game plan to get there.


- Herald on Sunday

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