Foster defiant as All Blacks axe hangs over him: 'Losing to Boks isn't unusual'

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  • All Blacks coach Ian Foster serenely batted back questions about his future in announcing his team for the Ellis Park Test.
  • Instead, he noted that a "dropped" first game against the Boks is hardly "unusual" and merely presents them with the challenge to improve.
  • Foster also maintained that he can see shoots of growth among his players. 

Like a quintessentially dogged and composed opening batter in Test cricket, All Blacks mentor Ian Foster on Thursday serenely straight-batted questions about his current mental state and employment prospects.

The former flyhalf, under severe pressure for overseeing a recent win record of just one win from six starts going into Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with the Springboks at Ellis Park, currently boasts the worst winning percentage - 64% - of any New Zealand coach in the professional era.

Only five other men have lower numbers in the All Blacks' entire history.

READ | Nienaber has 'sympathy' for embattled counterpart Foster: 'The All Blacks will get it

Asked how he coped with the pressure this week, Foster answered: "I think I've already answered that. You asked me about the team and I'm part of the team. We're just focused on this match."

Pressed for a more personal perspective, he succinct again.

"I think I just answered that. I'm part of the team. That's our mindset."

If anything, Foster merely maintained his mantra that while there's a definitive need for his team to improve their form, an opening loss in the Rugby Championship is hardly a proverbial train smash as no team has ended a campaign unbeaten since 2017.

"At the end of the day, you have to look at the facts," he said.

"We went into a competition where we dropped the first game. The last time someone won 6 out of 6 is five years ago, so it's not an unusual situation. Dropping one against South Africa isn't unusual. 

"The challenge for us is pretty simple. We just need to be excited about our prep, making sure we play our game."

He also reiterated that despite results, green shoots of growth are showing.

Teams:

Springboks

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux

All Blacks

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrell Lomax, 2 Samson Taukei'aho, 1 Ethan de Groot

Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa'i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea

"I've certainly seen and felt the team grow through a bit of adversity. That's when you get your character tested," said Foster.

"The key is, when things aren't going your way, don't go sit and sulk. It's about being clear of the challenge ahead of us.

"That's international sport isn't it? We have clarity, but we also know you make small steps when you're growing and making changes. We've got to keep those steps going."   

Kick-off is at 17:05.

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