Under-pressure New Zealand coach Ian Foster has ramped up the niggle at training ahead of Saturday’s rematch with Argentina to weed out All Blacks’ ill-discipline that led to rare back-to-back losses.
The new coach is firmly in the headlights after defeats in consecutive weeks to Australia and then Los Pumas – for the first time in their history – created the All Blacks’ first losing streak in nine years.
Poor discipline has been blamed as a key factor in their brief fall from grace, Foster’s assistant John Plumtree revealing on Tuesday the lengths they’ve gone to ahead of their final Tri Nations tournament appearance on Saturday in Newcastle.
“We have put a big focus on putting the players under pressure; Fozzy’s working hard to come up with some creative games where players might potentially get a little bit upset with some of his decisions,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way in that space (with a week off since their last Test) and players have learnt about controlling their emotions on the pitch when things don’t go so well.”
The Pumas were happy to kick for territory and back their suffocating defence earlier this month, leaving the All Blacks with what they felt were precious few attacking opportunities in a shock 25-15 loss.
That defeat followed a humbling in Brisbane from the Wallabies in a game that featured red cards for both sides.
Fullback Beauden Barrett said a review of their loss to Argentina had left the side “kicking themselves”.
“We clearly saw opportunities in the review that we didn’t feel and see in the game,” he said.
“It felt like they gave us nothing … looking at the tape is always easy but as long as we learn from that and look to exploit it.”
Argentina, who play the Wallabies again next weekend, have a game in hand and could emerge as shock tournament champions after enduring a strict quarantine and beating New Zealand 402 days after their last Test.
But the Wallabies’ draw with Argentina last weekend has left all three sides on six points and ensured New Zealand can still leave the country with more silverware.
“We’ve still got an opportunity to win the (Tri Nations) competition, we’re excited we can break that wall down,” Barrett said.
“I don’t think you can question our heart but you can probably question the missed opportunites and lack of taking them.