Hansen proud of fightback

Steve Hansen (AFP)
Steve Hansen (AFP)

Johannesburg - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has bemoaned his side's slow start but says he is proud of the way his players fought their way back into contention in Saturday's 27-25 defeat to South Africa that ended their 22-game unbeaten run.

It was just the second defeat in Hansen's three-year spell as coach of the world champions, with only a 52-metre penalty from Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie with two minutes to go separating the sides.

The All Blacks, who had already won the Rugby Championship, had fought back from 24-13 down going into the final 15 minutes to lead up until that point, but Hansen concedes that the result was the right one on the balance of play.

"It was a great game of rugby and could have gone either way, but my heart tells me the Boks deserved it today," Hansen told reporters.

"We didn't start the game well enough, they put us under pressure and got away to a good start.

"But I'm really proud of our guys for the way they came back, they showed a lot of composure and heart."

The All Blacks put a lacklustre first half behind them to dominate most of the second period, but Hansen says by then they had gifted the home side too much of a lead.

"After giving the Boks a 24-13 head-start, I thought we came home OK, we were pretty good I reckon. In a running race if I give you 10 metres as a start I reckon I'll beat you. But if I give you 15, there's no show."

It was a lack of quality ball to the backline that hindered the All Blacks in the first period and Hansen praised the physicality and organisation of the Bok defence.

"In the first half when we did get the ball from the set-piece it wasn't great quality and that's a tribute to the pressure that was put on. We couldn't build any pressure at all because we couldn't maintain the rugby ball and that's one of the key elements in the game.

"In the second half we held onto it, built pressure, kept our composure and scored points. In the end it came down to a penalty from 55-metres."

Hansen believes that his side can take positives from the loss, including the manner in which they kept plugging away at the deficit before pulling in front in the final 10 minutes.

"We are all disappointed, this team hates losing...it sucks really, but every now and again you are going to do it," he said.

"I will reiterate that the right team won, but having said that we're still bloody proud and would have been happy had we snuck it.

"We will go away and look at it, we'll learn some things from it as we always do. The thing that makes me proud the most is that they never gave up."

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