Wellington — New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has urged South Africans to be patient and support Rassie Erasmus in his bid to rebuild the Springboks.
Successive Rugby Championship defeats to Argentina and Australia has piled pressure on Erasmus, who is in the early stages of a six-year contract, and the hugely experienced Hansen said his counterpart looked like he had a long-term plan.
"He must have known when he took the job that there is going to be pressure. But he has a plan that is well lined out and the players seem to understand what he is trying to do," said Hansen on Thursday as he named the squad for the clash at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
"It is a question of people being patient and seeing how it goes. I am sure if everyone is patient they will get a reward for it in the long run.
"I am a fellow coach and you must give all coaches a chance to show what they can do.
"All coaches are under pressure to win matches because that’s what we want as a nation, as a sporting organisation, as a team, and it is not something that will be new to him."
Hansen added that he had watched the body language of the SA players from a distance and they appeared to be a tight-knit group.
"It is hard to tell when you are looking from the outside but they seem to be a tight group," he said. "They got a good start against a very good England side [in June] and to be able to do that means you are doing something right.
"The Springboks try to play good rugby. The selection policy still makes it difficult, I suppose, but they have to live with that and he is coping with it and doing a good job. It appears that he has a plan and knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. Sometimes the plan is long term rather than short term. People must give him [Erasmus] the support and space to do his thing. Otherwise he is doing well."
Looking ahead to Saturday’s clash, Hansen said the match had the makings of a classic as the Boks were desperate.
He said the Springboks would be determined to avoid a third defeat in a row while the All Blacks want to preserve their unbeaten record.
"This is a Test match against a team that we have a long and great history with," he said.
"SA will be desperate to put up a performance and they very rarely lose three times in a row.
"For us it is about getting our house in order and turning up. I believe this match has the potential to be one of those special Test matches," he said, adding that they would play their normal attacking game.
"We will be asking questions with our attacking game, and that is what we always strive to do," Hansen said. "I was pleased with the group that played against Argentina last weekend in Nelson because they put their hands up and it shows that we are coming OK.
"But we can’t get carried away," he said.
"Our last match against the Springboks could have gone either way, and to be honest it should have gone SA’s way.
"I reckon they are favourites," he said to a burst of laughter in the room.