All Blacks coach Hansen: We are not the finished article
Steve Hansen not carried away by record win over South Africa
The All Blacks gave themselves a pass mark, but said there was still a lot to work on as they reflected on their record 57-0 demolition of South Africa at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland on Saturday.
The world champions demonstrated that they could be ruthlessly clinical in seizing scoring opportunities and, at the same time, be equally aggressive in defence as they consigned the world's third-best team to their worst Test match defeat.
The eight-try victory kept the unbeaten New Zealanders in line to retain the Rugby Championship with only two matches remaining.
Former Springboks players, coaches and South African media labelled the result as "shocking" while stating the team had now reached a new low despite the fact they had been unbeaten this year until the rout on Saturday.
After taking a while to settle into the game and find their rhythm, the All Blacks produced their best display of the year, eliminating many of the errors that have littered their previous performances.
The result exposed the huge gulf between the two giants of world rugby but, a year out from facing second-ranked England at Twickenham and two years from the next World Cup, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was not getting carried away.
"We came in pretty clear about how we wanted to play and what we wanted to achieve and a lot of those things came off," he said.
"We started a bit jittery. There was a lot of dropped ball or bobble ball but, once we got into the rhythm of the game, I thought we played probably as good as we've played for a long time."
Hansen added that his team, who were still relatively immature, had been tested as they battled with injuries to key players and brought in inexperienced players to fill the gaps.
It would only serve them better in the long run as the All Blacks look ahead to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
"The big plus is that you have to expose these guys to the coal face and they have to grow up pretty quickly," he added.
"Then when the others come back, you've got a bigger pool.
"We are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination. We still have a lot of growing to do and we look forward to doing that."
Scrum-half Aaron Smith said that there were signs it was not the complete performance the All Blacks were searching for.
"We came out in the first 10 in that second half and we were average and a bit sluggish," he said.
"We have still got improvements. Nehe (Milner-Skudder) scored that try in the corner and we walked back and you always know that it's not a good feeling when you're not trying to get back (quickly).
“If we want to see where we can go, we’ve got to stay in that zone for 80 minutes.”All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith
"It's really hard to do when you're up by a good score, to stay in that zone but, if we want to see where we can go, we've got to stay in that zone for 80 minutes."
It was the second time in consecutive Tests that the All Blacks have put more than 50 points past the Springboks following their 57-15 victory last year.
They also bettered the previous 53-3 record loss the South Africans suffered against England in 2002.
This year, the All Blacks have played eight Tests for six wins, a draw and a loss but their performances have been perplexing.
The high-octane game Hansen is trying to perfect is mesmerising when it comes off, as it did against the Springboks and for the first 50 minutes of their opening Rugby Championship Test against Australia.
But, at other times, the pace and intensity have been marred by inaccuracy.
Defence coach Wayne Smith, in his sign-off Test in New Zealand before he steps away from the All Blacks at the end of the championship, rated it a special performance.
"It's been a while coming this year," he said. "It's sort of a dream performance to finish on.
"I think we knew there was going to be a whole-hearted performance, that there was going to be something pretty good. We were confident of that. But that was special." - WIRE SERVICES