New Zealand coach Graham Henry has admitted that their month-long break from competitive international rugby contributed to their Tri-Nations defeat to South Africa.
As the All Blacks arrived in Sydney, with Byron Kelleher ruled out of the Bledisloe Cup opener against Australia and captain Tana Umaga also an injury doubt, Henry conceded the hiatus after the British & Irish Lions tour could have been a factor in the 22-16 reverse in Cape Town.
The former Wales coach said: "We were a bit rusty. We didn’t think we would be, but that just shows the pressure we were under from the opposition.
"We dropped a bit of ball when we had opportunity, and perhaps we tried to push the boundaries too much, but that’s the way we play.
"Their defence was outstanding. We created a lot of opportunities where we got in behind them and looked like we would score, but didn’t."
The side will definitely look different against the Wallabies, with Henry an advocate of a squad rotation policy. So as well as the injured Kelleher, some of his side – perhaps even skipper Umaga, who has been told to expect the occasional absence – may drop out of contention.
Of his captain, Henry commented: "His ankle’s not too sharp, but he’s pretty positive about it."