Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean Fitzpatrick: Composure under pressure impressive

Israel Dagg is always a threat. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Israel Dagg is always a threat. Photo / Brett Phibbs

What really struck me about the All Blacks win last night was the composure they possessed under immense pressure.

Everyone in this team appears to be a decision-maker and we are seeing the benefits of that confidence, even against teams like the Springboks. They even denied the Boks a bonus point.

Before this test coach Steve Hansen said it would be a step up in intensity from the first three rounds and he was right.I was impressed with the way the All Blacks dealt with that.

The setpiece was a case in point, particularly the pressure they sustained on the Springboks' lineout. There was confidence in the All Blacks forward power. I think we saw the impact that had when Boks captain Jean de Villiers opted for long-range shots at goal.

It carried over to the breakdown as well. Richie McCaw led by example, and it's been great to see the team growing even after the World Cup win. Individuals are taking responsibility for their own performances. There is a lot of leadership on and off the field.

Behind McCaw you've got players like Conrad Smith. The best teams I played in were always ones where everyone was a decision-maker in their position. You could see that tonight with Aaron Smith coming on at halfback in the second half and scoring that solo try. We saw a real impact off the bench through the likes of Smith.

Another example of a decison-maker was Israel Dagg. Every time he touches the ball he seems like a threat and he was a good foil for Aaron Cruden in this sort of situation. Dagg's good on the ball, he's good in the air and he's got a good boot. He just seems to lap up that All Blacks environment. Cruden is going okay, it's a learning process for him because he still hasn't played that many tests. He's gaining experience and you've got Beauden Barrett to keep the pressure on him while Dan Carter is injured.

Hansen and his fellow coaches and selectors also deserve credit. You see it internationally and also at Super 15 level; coaches have a real impact into the performances of their teams.

As for the Boks, well, Morne Steyn is under extreme pressure. He doesn't seem to be able to run with the ball. They need to work on his decision-making, and why he opts to kick all the time. The Boks often had good line speed with the ball in hand but their kicking game let them down hugely. They might have to look at changes. Under coach Heyneke Meyer they seem to be opting for that old Bulls kick-and-chase game where you can only hopefully to recover the ball. The first option is always to kick.

- Herald on Sunday

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Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick remains one of the greatest rugby players to have graced the game and one of the All Blacks’ most celebrated captains. Throughout his stellar he played 128 matches from 1986 up until his retirement in 1998. His 11 years of captaincy were heralded as some of the most prolific in All Blacks history, including captaining the team to their first ever series win against the Springboks in South Africa in 1996 – a record achievement in its own right.

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