SYDNEY • All Blacks skipper Sam Cane yesterday said his team have an extra “edge” about them heading into their crunch clash with Argentina, driven by the “horrible” feeling of two straight defeats.
New Zealand are in the rare situation of trying to avoid three losses in a row, a fate they have not suffered since 1998.
Standing in their way in Newcastle today is an Argentinian side who not only beat them 25-15 in the Tri Nations this month, but followed it up with a battling draw against Australia.
Cane admitted suffering two Test defeats in a row – they also lost to the Wallabies – and a backlash from their notoriously demanding fans had left them rattled.
“Everyone in the squad is hurting and there is an opportunity to try and right some wrongs, and put some pride back in the All Blacks jersey,” he said.
“There is a slightly different mood. The easiest way to explain it is there is a bit of an edge, almost a grumpiness throughout the week.
“Sometimes (in training), it’s good to have a bit of fun, but we are so focused and have just wanted to get the most out of every training session this week to give ourselves the best chance of playing well.”
Much of the flak from the back-to-back defeats had been directed at coach Ian Foster, although Cane had also been under scrutiny for his leadership skills.
He insisted his head had been “in a good place” this week with “tremendous support” from his teammates.
“We are very focused on what we can control and in trying to get a good performance, and sort of blocking out any outside noise,” the loose forward said.
“We’re embracing the pressure we’re under but using that in a positive way to drive us… We’re driven to try and put a performance together that we’re proud of.”
He added that his team would keep their emotions in check against a Pumas side who could be extra motivated following the death of Argentina football legend Diego Maradona earlier this week.
“Knowing the Argentinian people, from my limited experience I am sure he was viewed as a God-like figure,” he said. “I’m sure that will be a big driving factor for them.”
Foster has reshuffled his forwards to better tackle the physicality of Argentina, bringing in prop Nepo Laulala for Tyrel Lomax, lock Scott Barrett ahead of Patrick Tuipulotu and loose forward Akira Ioane instead of Shannon Frizell.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS