The verbal jousting between New Zealand and South Africa was stepped on Monday when the All Black assistant coach Steve Hansen described Springbok mentor Peter de Villiers as a man with an “upside down mouth”.
This follows after De Villiers told a media gathering in Johannesburg that he and his All Black rival Graham Henry have one thing in common – they both have “big mouths”.
Hansen, who said he hadn’t read about De Villiers’ remarks, still felt it necessary to comment.
“He’s got an upside down mouth. He’s one of those unfortunate people born with an upside down smile,” he told NZPA.
As for the pre-match verbal jousting, Hansen said: “I don’t want to comment on that. It’s just mind games from two very astute coaches.”
De Villiers was responding to questions – before his team’s departure in Johannesburg – about remarks made by Henry and All Black captain Richie McCaw, who suggested that South Africa “played less rugby” than New Zealand and Australia and would have to be “forced out of their comfort zone”.
“Graham Henry is a good coach, but he’s like me, he has a big mouth,” De Villiers said.
“I don’t understand what they mean by playing less rugby. We all play for 80 minutes. And we are never in a comfort zone. We try to improve week by week, even if it’s just by half-a-percent.”
South Africa head into the tournament as the reigning champions and having whitewashed New Zealand 3-0 last year.
However, Hansen didn’t believe the All Blacks were suffering from any hangover from those run of defeats.
He felt they had come through their one-off test against Ireland and two-match series against Wales last month in good shape mentally.
“I know there’s a deep down desire to perform well,” he said.
“Having lost the Tri-Nations last year, there’s a huge hunger to win it back.”
He described the lift in intensity in the New Zealand camp over the past few days as natural, given that the All Blacks were about to face a team universally regarded as the best in the world.
“We fancy ourselves as being a fairly handy rugby side too, and it will be a big test match,” he said.
“Tri-Nations rugby involves three of the sides in the top four in the world rankings and there’s a lot at stake. Clearly the tension and pressure that comes with that is a lot greater than normal.”
The Boks face New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday, July 10, and Wellington a week later, before heading to Brisbane to face Australia on July 24.
After that the Boks return home for a month-long break, in which the All Blacks and Wallabies will play back-to-back Tests, before hostilities resume on South African soil.
On August 21 South Africa face New Zealand in the first ever Test in Soweto, before the Boks play back-to-back Tests against Australia – August 28 in Pretoria and September 4 in Bloemfontein.
The tournament is concluded on September 11, when Australia face New Zealand in Sydney
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet