RWC: All Blacks put Bok friendship on ice

Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand with Jesse Kriel of South Africa (Gallo Images)
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand with Jesse Kriel of South Africa (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The All Blacks were told to be careful of their off-field friendships with the Springboks during last year’s Rugby World Cup, a member of the management team has revealed.

NZ Rugby performance analysis manager, Jason Healy, told the website that the All Blacks had to make a deliberate effort to put their off-field camaraderie with the Boks out of their minds ahead of their semi-final clash at Twickenham, which the Kiwis won 20-18.

“Because South Africa (Springboks) are an amazing bunch of people and the players and coaching staff have a lot of friendships, we had to 'not go there' - to the emotional side of our thinking.

"We can't have that kind of thinking in this game. We had to be 'blue head'; cool, calm and collected.

"We knew we were going to have a beer with them after the game, even if World Rugby didn't necessarily think that was the best thing to be doing."

Before last year’s tournament, Healy was charged with taking a thousand hours of video and nearly a million pieces of match-data to Britain to help analyse the performance of New Zealand’s rivals.

When speaking at a conference in Wellington organised by NZ Rugby's analytics software supplier, United States firm SAS Institute, he played down its significance.

Instead, the secret to the world champions’ success lay within, and the team's focus turned increasingly inwards as the competition entered the knock-out stages.

Healy said the eye-opener for him was that data analytics was about "more than just the numbers".

"No-one probably needed to be reminded about what happened in 2007," he said, referring to the All Blacks quarter-final defeat by France.

"We didn't talk about it, but we knew emotionally and mentally some of the guys were thinking about it.

"The really critical thing that came out of our summation of the pool play was that one of players came up to us and said 'no-one fears us, nobody is scared of us or intimidated by us'. That was a real lightbulb moment for us."

The All Blacks' information arsenal included videos of 275 games, each filmed from four angles and synchronised with 3 500 hand-noted match "events", such as lineouts and missed tackles.

The All Blacks became the first team to defend the Rugby World Cup when they beat the Wallabies 34-17 in the final at Twickenham on October 31, 2015. 

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