Rugby World Cup: All Blacks not panicking after 'spanking' from Springboks, says coach Ian Foster

Twelve hours after the All Blacks' were dealt a brutal reality check against the Springboks, coach Ian Foster remains steadfast in his belief that his squad has what it takes to win the World Cup.

The team's final hit-out before the tournament could scarcely have been worse scripted for his troops, as they succumbed to a barrage from a Springboks team determined to lay down a marker ahead of their Cup defence, handing New Zealand their heaviest defeat in test history.

Indiscipline started the snowball rolling and it quickly became an avalanche against the 'Boks, who used their set-piece dominance as a springboard to a win for the ages. Only substitute halfback Cam Roigard's individual brilliance spared the All Blacks the added ignominy of being the first to fail to score in a test since 1964.

Foster and his fellow selectors resisted the urge to play a second-string team at Twickenham, conscious of the lack of rugby that approach would have left his starters with heading into their opener against France on September 9.

Seven of the ''First XV' - including the likes of the Barrett trio, Rieko Ioane, and props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax -  hadn't seen the field since the first Bledisloe Cup test at the MCG on July 29.

While Foster admits it was a difficult decision to make, the ultimate outcome - result, injuries, and disciplinary issues aside - is that his team have shaken off their rust with the ideal pre-Cup match-hardening against the defending champions.

"In many ways, it was a perfect storm," said Foster.

South Africa celebrate a try.
South Africa celebrate a try. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We had seven players who haven't played a game of rugby in four weeks and they needed this game. Our mindset was to go in really hard at it. 

"I thought we looked rusty. I thought SA were outstanding and the way they pressured us in the areas they wanted to pressure us. That coincided with a red card and there goes the game

"It was still a game that we needed and we'll make sure we'll use that really really well in a fortnight's time."

The main challenge now is trying to recapture that momentum the team had established through their unbeaten start to their 2023 campaign, which had the bookies scrambling to reorder their list of tournament favourites.

It's probably harsh to say that momentum has been completely squandered, but it's undoubtedly been seriously stalled as a result of Saturday's record-breaking outcome.

And for as much as Foster concedes being handed such a lopsided "spanking" was a humbling experience, he's adamant there's not the slightest ounce of panic pervading through his camp who have their collective eye still fixed on the ultimate prize in Paris.

"I think we're confident," Foster said. "It didn't look like that, and I know we got a good spanking yesterday so I'm not hiding from that fact.

"We had to make a decision - do we play [the starters] through from Dunedin and then give them that test and maybe give them this one off, or do we have a whole group of our team that's not battle hardened and hasn't played?

"You make those decisions and we live or die on it, but we're not panicking about that result last night.

"We knew we were going to get challenged. It's not the result we wanted. But I still believe in the plan. I still believe we've got the group.

"At least what we have got now is a good litmus test of where we're at. We've got guys who have played a fortnight out from a big test and everyone is in the same boat from now on after this weekend.

The squad now heads to Germany for a mini-camp - where they'll also fulfill some sponsorship obligations with Adidas - before they relocate to their base in Lyon in preparation for their curtain raiser against the hosts at Stade de France.

There's no shortage of items on the coaching staffs 'to do' list - not least of which is ensuring morale doesn't waiver.

"It's actually okay to be psychologically down after a game like that because you put so much into it," Foster noted. 

"But when you look at the bigger picture about what we wanted to achieve from that game, to be fair we got everything we expected, we just didn't deal with it as well as we expected. We've just got to go back and fix that."

"But we've got a lot of belief in what we've been doing, and we know that the first game of the World Cup is big and it's going to be just like that… we'll probably be attacked in a very similar way."