Beauden Barrett excited about challenge ahead in South Africa

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It was 2009 when the All Blacks last played twice in South Africa, but the 2022 side was going to get stuck into that task.

 

"It's one that we need right now because touring South Africa is right up there as one of the highlights of playing rugby, and is as big a test as you'll ever get," he said.

 

Barrett said the players were looking forward to playing in South Africa again, something they haven't done since their one-off Test in Pretoria in 2018. There were ten players in the group who hadn't been to South Africa.

 

"It's a great place to tour and play an intense and fair style of rugby – that's what we're expecting anyway.

 

"It's great for this team, it's what we need right now, a good challenge for us. We're tight, there's no doubt about that, so what a place to go to, to test ourselves."

 

Barrett said last week's camp for the side had been positive, and they were excited about where they were going with the direction of their game in the short term.

 

They had taken their lessons from the lost Ireland series. They learned how many missed opportunities there were and how simple structure and skill facets would take care of those issues.

 

 

"I'm confident we'll bounce back," he said.

 

They were looking forward to the differences of playing in South Africa's fortresses, especially the second Test venue at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg.

 

It involved daytime rugby, and conditions generally favoured moving the ball around while facing a South African team playing at home with hostile support at altitude. It was a test the players relished, he said.

 

Barrett said the senior players had probably never been so determined, as a group, to get better, something matched by individual desire.

 

Barrett said he missed the travel to South Africa, not just the Super Rugby travel but especially the international travel, and he missed playing the South African teams.

 

With the coaching changes the All Blacks have undergone, Foster had taken on coaching the attack side of the game, something Barrett said he was familiar with in his previous assistant coaching role.

 

"It seems natural to him, and I think he's thrived in that role. It's obviously a big role he's in at the moment, filling the head coach and taking the backs in the attack, but we're right behind him.

 

"If anything, it's about simplifying things rather than adding more layers to what we're doing, and, ultimately, we'll be out there playing with a free head, not a cluttered one.

 

"We're all excited for the subtle shifts or changes we will make," he said.

 

Barrett said the coaching stuff and players were in things together. All were hurt by the events of the last few weeks and what that meant for themselves, for Foster and the departed coaches Brad Mooar and John Plumtree.

 

"All we can do now is come together strongly, tightly, and embrace this trip we are about to get into and hope…I know our game will improve. We're going to work hard to make sure it does."

 

The All Blacks had been in a similar position before but not in the last decade. That was a challenge for the leadership group.

 

However, the external pressure had never exceeded the internal pressure, and Barrett said the answers to their issues were within the group.

 

 

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