x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Steve Hansen vows best is yet to come from New Zealand

All Blacks get the better of Australia while South Africa defeat Argentina.

New Zealand's Aaron Smith clears the ball during his side's win over Australia.
New Zealand's Aaron Smith clears the ball during his side's win over Australia.

New Zealand and Australia are both targeting big improvements after an error-strewn opening to the Rugby Championship.

The world champion All Blacks edged out the Wallabies at Sydney's Olympic Stadium but the match was devoid of rhythm, with referee Alain Rolland whistling for 28 penalties and players on both sides fumbling the ball.

Steve Hansen, the New Zealand coach, blamed the mistakes on the short amount of time the players had to prepare following the end of the Super 15 two weeks ago, and said he expects a more attractive return match at Eden Park next weekend when the two sides meet again.

"It's probably not the most perfect game in the world but when you get two sides coming off the breaks we've had, playing at the intensity we're playing, there's going to be errors," Hansen said. "Both sides will be better for the experience and next week I think will be a real ripper of a game."

Israel Dagg and Cory Jane accounted for the Wallabies with a try apiece in the first half, and the lightning backs both could each have scored another in the second, with Dagg forced into touch in the corner and Jane fumbling a pass from Sonny Bill Williams on the line.

Hansen expects those chances to stick next weekend .

"There were a couple of opportunities, Australia had a couple too, and the reason you're not taking them is you're a bit rusty," Hansen said.

"CJ [Jane] wouldn't drop too many offloads like he had from Sonny. It's about playing together and having that time together.

"We came off a seven-day preparation and sometimes you need more time than that."

The All Blacks instead had to rely on the reliable boot of Dan Carter to see them to victory as the fly-half landed five penalties and one conversion for a personal tally of 17 points.

Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, acknowledged that his side, who conceded both tries out wide following quick passing from the scrum, need to improve fast if they are going to challenge for the title this season.

"To their credit they put us under pressure, but it was really the unforced errors that put us in a difficult position," Deans said. "We have to be better. That wouldn't be too hard, I don't think. We'll definitely be better next week.

"Some of the errors out there just aren't acceptable in any level of the game, now people will put that down to any number of things."

Hansen expects the Wallabies to be fired up by the manner of the loss and to fight hard to end a run of 13 straight defeats to the All Blacks in Auckland.

"I think it will hurt them," Hansen said.

"You read all week how they're going to do this and do that and I'm sure they'll be disappointed they didn't do this and didn't do that."

Meanwhile,

There was no fairy-tale debut for Argentina in the Rugby Championship yesterday as they fell to a 27-6 defeat against the more creative South Africa at Newlands.

An often scrappy game was won and lost in the first 20 minutes of the second half when the Pumas missed three penalty kicks after trailing 20-6 at half time before winger Bryan Habana snatched an opportunist try.

“We played well in patches but there is a lot of work ahead and we need to be hard on ourselves when analysing this match,” the South Africa captain and outside centre, Jean de Villiers, said.

“There was a lot to play for today after the terrible scenes at Lonmin mine two days ago. We have a huge job to perform for our country – we have to offer people hope.”

Clashes between armed police and miners striking for higher salaries in the Northwest province on Thursday led to 34 deaths, dozens of injuries and hundreds of arrests.

Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the Argentina captain, said the side could take heart from their display despite coming up short against the Springboks.

He said: “Argentina made history today and we feel honoured as the first players from the country to play in the southern hemisphere championship.”

“This was a high-intensity rugby match and I am proud of my players for never giving up. I am also grateful to those who worked so hard for so many years to get us this opportunity.”

South Africa will be disappointed at failing to secure a bonus-point fourth try from late pressure in what will probably be the easiest of six fixtures in the former Tri Nations, with challenging games against world champions New Zealand and Australia still ahead.

Morne Steyn, the fly-half, was back to his placekicking best for the Springboks after a poor mid-year series against England, landing three conversions and two conversions for a perfect record.

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