Boks not focusing on past, says Johann van Graan
That the Springboks have not won in New Zealand since 2009 is the least of assistant coach Johann van Graan’s worries, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.
He has experienced the heartbreak of knowing your best is not good enough to topple a legendary All Blacks side.
Van Graan was with the 2013 side that went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks for the full 80 minutes at Eden Park before Romain Poite’s contentious officiating saw the Boks reduced to 14 men, thus handing the All Blacks an advantage.
The Boks were also on the wrong side of a narrow 14-10 reverse in Wellington as a coming-of-age performance by Handré Pollard and Cornal Hendricks’s try were not enough to rescue Heyneke Meyer’s side.
The 2016 visit to Christchurch that resulted in the 41-13 clobbering can best be left to the annals of history.
Van Graan is well aware of the lessons the Boks have to take in for Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany, but the past will not bring them a win in the present.
"We haven’t spoken about the past too much. I’ve been here a few times before and the last game we played in Auckland brings back a few memories.
"We got really close the following year but we lost and the same case last year. We learn from every single Test match, but 2017 was about a new start for us. We’re not really focused on the past… this will be our first measure against the New Zealand side in New Zealand," Van Graan said.
The excellence of the All Blacks has never been lost on Van Graan even though they have had a few reality checks this season from the British and Irish Lions in July and then from the Wallabies in the Dunedin Test in August.
The Boks’ developing juggernaut was halted by the Wallabies even though they came away with a 23-23 draw.
Having seen off the French and the Argentinians in five consecutive Tests, the Boks needed the Australian performance to serve as a wake-up call.
Van Graan said one of the key components of the 2017 class was their ability to rectify mistakes from previous matches and apply them immediately.
"We’ve got a younger squad than in previous years and we’ve got different dynamics within our team. We’ve got younger guys who get a lot of excitement and have a bit more humour. This is a different team in a different year.
"We’ve got a lot of diversity and we embrace every challenge and we can’t wait to measure ourselves against the No1 team in the world," he said.