2013 win over Ireland helped build this self belief - All Blacks coach Hansen

The Kiwi boss says he hopes Australia and Argentina ‘bash each other’ tomorrow.

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

RICHIE MCCAW STARES at the ground as his head coach, sitting centimetres away, lauds the New Zealand captain as the greatest player their country has ever produced.

Cap 147 brought another win for McCaw, and Steve Hansen felt that the skipper had again played an essential role.

New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams is tackled by South Africa’s Francois Louw Ma'a Nonu and McCaw were both important figures. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The Kiwis found themselves trailing at half time of this evening’s World Cup semi-final after a ferocious Springboks effort, then they faced a late onslaught from Heyneke Meyer’s men as they desperately attempted to claw their way back in front late on.

McCaw and his teammates showed steel both times in their 20-18 victory.

“Experience allows that to happen,” said Hansen post-match in Twickenham. “We’ve probably got the greatest skipper in the game, probably the greatest player we’ve ever seen. I’m talking from a New Zealand point of view and probably the world, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves there.

He’s also a great skipper and it’s ironic that in 2007, as a young captain, he was criticised a lot. I know that hurt him and he’s grown. He’s grown his leadership skills and we as a team have grown people around him as well.”

Hansen cited Kieran Read, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Sam Cane as the steady heads around McCaw, players who instil a true sense of self belief within this New Zealand team.

They have been through some rigorous tests of their resilience, McCaw more than anyone. He has failed before, as in 2007, but there have been many other occasions on which the openside flanker has brought his team through demanding challenges.

Hansen pointed to the still-incredible 2013 victory over Joe Schmidt’s Ireland as the strongest example of how his team have built their belief even further in recent years.

Kieran Read celebrates with Charlie Faumuina at the end of the match Kieran Read celebrates the Kiwis' victory. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“We’ve had moments – and I can think of one obvious one against Ireland – when we had to keep that self belief. So when you get into situations like we got into tonight, it’s just about the process.

“What have we got to do right now? If we get that right, then what have we got to do next? It becomes the norm, I guess.

“Your leadership on the field is based around having experienced that many times before and when you play 147 Tests and you’ve got three or four other guys who have played over 100, you’ve got guys on the park that can do that for you.

It’s a learned skill and self belief is a massive thing.”

Hansen was in good humour as he spoke after New Zealand’s victory in Twickenham, stating that “great performances don’t always look the same.” There were more tries against France last weekend, but this was far more satisfying for the Kiwi head coach.

Hansen opened his press conference with a word for the beaten Boks, having recovered from actually making it into the press area at all.

“Gotta get me breath back after walking up all those stairs! I don’t want to test the heart after that game.

“What I’d like to say is firstly to congratulate South Africa. It’s a massive game for both teams and I guess it’s disappointing that someone has to lose in a contest like that. The game could have gone either way and we’re just thankful and humble that we’re getting the opportunity to go through to the final week.

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read celebrate at the final whistle McCaw and Read greet the final whistle. Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

“I was really rapt with the composure our guys showed. To go in at half time in a game that was do-or-die and to come back out, get a little bit of ascendancy and then in the last 15 minutes I think we controlled the game pretty good. I’m very proud of what our guys did and we’ll enjoy the moment because that’s what Test rugby is about.

“But we’ll look forward to watching Argentina and Australia smash each other tomorrow. Then we’ll look forward to preparing for a Test match that will be really, really special. You don’t get an opportunity to play in the final of a World Cup very often.”

Asked who he would rather face in that final, Hansen reiterated that he simply hopes to see a tolling physical clash between tomorrow’s semi-finalists, particularly with the victor having a day less of recovery before next Saturday’s decider.

I don’t care, I don’t care,” said Hansen. “We’re in it and whoever we get will be very, very tough. That’s why I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t got time to waste energy about picking which one I want.

“I just want them to bash each other to bits tomorrow and then worry about what we’ve got to do. That’s the most important thing for us. We’ve got to enjoy tonight for what it was, put a full stop on it and then get ready for a massive occasion next week.”

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