Lions tour: Discipline the key to success against Lions, says All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock
Strangled once already by the British and Irish Lions, All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock says discipline is the key to not letting it happen again in the first Test.
Whitelock and the likely All Blacks starting front row in Saturday's first Test were all part of the Crusaders side beaten 12-3 by the dogged tourists in Christchurch.
Employing a formula the Lions are expected to emulate at Eden Park, their near-Test lineup defended stoutly and kicked adroitly to lower the flag of the Super Rugby leaders.
Whitelock admits the tactics were frustrating but highly effective.
The veteran Test forward says it is crucial the All Blacks stick to some basic principles against a Lions side gathering momentum following stirring wins over New Zealand Maori and the Chiefs.
The most important of them is not conceding penalties, which he says gives lifeblood to the men in red.
"Our discipline in the Crusaders game was not anywhere near what it had been throughout the year and we suffered because of it," Whitelock said.
"It allowed them to kick for the corners, kick for penalties, and they built scoreboard pressure because of it.
"They really suffocated us and put pressure on us."
Whitelock says other insights have been passed on to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who will have noted the Lions' ability to win penalties at scrum time.
Their ball retention has also been impressive, prompting Whitelock to call for a conservative approach at the breakdown rather than risking penalties by attempting turnovers.
"If you're unsure if it's the right action, it's probably not, so you're probably better off to bail out and get into the defensive line," he said.
"If we stay clean on the penalty side of things, hopefully we can use their strength against them."
The All Blacks' premier ball-pilferer, flanker Sam Cane, agrees excitement needs to be kept in check.
He can sense the public excitement surrounding the series and that is reflected among the players themselves, who have stepped up in intensity following the 78-0 rout of Samoa.
He says Hansen is ensuring nobody is getting carried away.
"You can't throw in some special things you haven't done in other weeks because it's a special game.
"You've got to trust what you've always done to set yourself up to play well."