By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Steve Hansen has no time for sentimentality ahead of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia at Eden Park, with the All Blacks coach focused only on ensuring his 100th test in charge ends the same way as his first — with a victory.
A win would ensure New Zealand retain the Bledisloe Cup for another year, having held it since 2003, and give Hansen an indication of where his side sits heading into next month’s Rugby World Cup.
The 60-year-old, brought in by Graham Henry as an assistant in 2004, is stepping down after the global showpiece in Japan after eight seasons as head coach and a 15-year association with the team.
He has downplayed the significance of reaching the century mark, however, telling reporters this week: “I haven’t even thought about it.
“They’re all special,” he said.
“It’s a privilege of being given the honour of being head coach of the All Blacks, even if it’s only for one test.
“It’s no different to a player. You strive to being the best you can be and if you play one test match, well that’s better than the bloke who played none, isn’t it.
“And if you hang around for long enough and you do your job properly you get to stay there as a player and it’s the same as a coach.
“Every test match we play, I’m not big on milestones, I think let’s enjoy it for what it is.”
Hansen’s involvement with the team has coincided with a golden generation of players like all-time greats Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Keven Mealamu passing through the side.
Of the 202 tests Hansen has been involved in, 99 as head coach and 103 as an assistant, the All Blacks have won 174 and lost 24, with four draws.
They have won 11 of 16 Tri-Nations or Rugby Championship titles, two World Cups and retained the Bledisloe Cup each year.
But after a 16-16 draw with South Africa and 47-26 defeat to Australia in their last two games, Saturday’s clash with the Wallabies has an added element of intrigue to it.
The match should give Hansen a firm indication whether his side are on the slide, as has been suggested by some pundits and rugby writers, or whether they are firmly on track to deliver a third successive World Cup title.
“This is an exciting one because there’s a lot on it,” Hansen said.
“That’s why they’re called test matches, they’re going to test our resolve to step up to the plate and we’ll learn a lot out of it and march on to the next occasion.
“We’re going to get asked some questions about ourselves.
“This is the best challenge we could get prior to going to a World Cup.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)