WELLINGTON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - New Zealand are striving for perfection and have no intention of taking their foot off the gas against Australia this weekend even if the Bledisloe Cup is already secured, coach Steve Hansen said on Tuesday.
The world champions wrapped up a second successive Rugby Championship with one of the great test match performances in their 38-27 win over a rejuvenated South Africa in Johannesburg 10 days ago.
Having also beaten Australia both home and away in the southern hemisphere championship to ensure they retain cross-Tasman Sea bragging rights for another year, Saturday’s third Bledisloe test in Dunedin could be seen as a dead rubber.
But with a 100 percent success rate over nine tests this season, and an unblemished record against the Wallabies going back to 2001 to defend, Hansen said the emphasis would be on further improvement.
“The key message is we’ve got to progress forward from what we were in our last performance,” he told reporters at Otago Stadium.
“If we sit and be comfortable then someone’s going to come screaming past us.”
While Australia had a confidence-boosting 54-17 win over Argentina in their last outing, they have not looked like screaming past the All Blacks for a long time.
The Wallabies have mostly struggled this season since losing the British and Irish Lions series and will be weakened by a string of injuries that robbed them of their first choice goalkicker and left them with just one healthy winger.
A similarly threadbare outfit did, however, defy the odds to deny the All Blacks a 17th successive victory in an 18-18 draw in Brisbane last year - a match Hansen described as one of the ugliest games of rugby he had ever seen.
With New Zealand embarking on a trip to Japan before playing tests in France, England and Ireland after Saturday’s match, Hansen said it was vital his team did not let their momentum falter.
”This team needs this game, this is an ideal game, because if we want to make statements, this a great opportunity,“ Hansen added. ”Because we’ve come off a great win, everyone’s given us a pat on the back.
”Now we’ve got two choices, we can either be like pigs in the mud and roll in it and say how good we are, or we can get back to work and say we want to improve our game.
”That seems to be the attitude within the group.
“You’re never going to be perfect but you want to strive to be perfect. Whilst you’ve got that mindset you’ve got an opportunity to keep playing well.”
Hansen will name his team for the match on Thursday. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)