Veteran hooker Dane Coles is rapt with the way the All Blacks overcame a nervous start to dominate their epic encounter with South Africa in their Rugby World Cup opener on Saturday night.
Coles revealed captain Kieran Read had to gather the team together after they looked rattled in the opening 15 minutes of the Pool B match.
"We weren't really that settled. Reado brought us in and said 'the next guy just hold the ball and the nearest guy just clean' so we could get a bit of momentum," Coles said yesterday.
"Once we settled down we made a few line breaks and put a bit of pressure on them. I don't know if it was nerves. I think it was just one person did it [throw the ball] and the next person thought he had to do it.
"The way that we adapted to it we showed some good signs."
Coles, who was replaced at halftime due to a calf niggle which he said wasn't serious, praised the All Blacks for the way they adapted to South Africa's defensive pressure.
"In the last game [in the Rugby Championship] they brought a lot of line speed and put us under pressure and we couldn't adapt. It could still be better — but we did that really well.
"Our defence, as well; they made a few line breaks and Richie Mo'unga did an outstanding cover tackle on their winger," he said referring to Mo'unga's brilliant cover defence to stop electric winger Cheslin Kolbe. "Just that willingness to get back and make a tackle and never give up were two promising signs as well."
Playing the Springboks in front of a mainly Japanese crowd at Yokohama Stadium, many of whom were supporting the All Blacks, was a very different experience for the New Zealanders.
There were many locals wearing black jerseys and black face paint as the All Blacks began their World Cup defence with a 23-13 victory against the old enemy. But there were many wearing the red and white jerseys of Japan but cheering for the All Blacks — support acknowledged at the end by a coordinated bow by the New Zealand players to all four sides of the stadium.
"It wasn't like the screaming Kiwis chucking up beer in the air," Coles said of the polite but occasionally loud support. "It was a respectful crowd — it was different. You know the New Zealand fans, they get on the booze about one o'clock and they're into it by game time.
"We've had great support since we've been here and hopefully that continues."
The All Blacks will get a taste of something different again on Tuesday when they fly to Beppu, near Oita, where they will play Canada in their next game on October 2.
It's a good break and offers a change of scenery which perhaps comes at just the right time after a torrid test against South Africa which carried with it an intense fortnight of preparation.
"Mentally it's good. It's good to have a couple of days to decompress I suppose and then we'll focus on Canada and build up for that."
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