SOWETO: It's not what the Wallabies want to hear but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen warns his runaway Rugby Championship winners are improving.
''We are getting better,'' Hansen said after New Zealand survived a torrid opening half against South Africa at Soccer City to score 20 unanswered second-half points for a 32-16 triumph and 16 Test victories in a row.
The All Blacks next visit Australia for a dead Bledisloe Cup rubber in Brisbane on October 20 then face Scotland, Italy, Wales and England on their end-of-season tour to Europe in November.
Steve Hansen ... believes his All Blacks can only get better. Photo: AFP
Facing the Springboks before a large, expectant crowd in the 90,000-seat football stadium near Soweto proved no problem for the world champions as they improved on a 10-point winning margin when the great rivals met in Dunedin last month.
''We know we have some very talented players, but so have a lot of other teams,'' said Hansen, who took over after last year's World Cup triumph. ''The difference between us and them is that we are perhaps getting our preparation right during the week and ensuring that our players have the best chance to perform on the Saturday.''
Hansen said it had been challenging travelling from New Zealand to Argentina - where they ran in seven tries in a 54-15 romp - and then to South Africa.
All Blacks thrash Springboks
The All Blacks turned around a half-time deficit to run out easy winners of South Africa in Johannesburg. Photo: Getty Images
''We had to manage the players' workloads carefully,'' he said, as a possible explanation why the visitors cancelled the traditional eve-of-Test captains' run.
Hansen said juggling with different time zones tested his staff and the players, but he believed the squad ''trained smart''.
Captain Richie McCaw said mental strength was a key factor as the All Blacks turned around an early 10-point deficit to make it 16 Test wins in a row - two short of the record for a top-tier rugby nation. ''We had the Rugby Championship sewn up last weekend, but the guys understood the challenge of coming to South Africa and the need to back it up with another victory.
''There are a few guys in our squad who have been around a while and they ensured that we kept our edge. Our fuel tanks probably were not 100 per cent full coming into this game, so it came down to mental desire.''
South African coach Heyneke Meyer had no excuses. '' … I take my hat off to them, particularly Dan Carter for the way he controlled the game once they were ahead,'' he said. ''Until half-time we played the right type of game, placing them under pressure. The turning point came when they scored that try soon after the interval as we had to play catch-up. They are the best in the world at exploiting and capitalising on turnover ball, and that is what they did with devastating effect in this game.''