Rugby World Cup: Ian Foster, Sam Cane see positives in All Blacks' record loss to South Africa

Ian Foster sees the positives of Saturday's 35-7 defeat to the Springboks despite adding another unwanted record to his CV as All Blacks coach. 

From the first whistle to the last at London's iconic Twickenham, the All Blacks were outclassed by a South African side who claimed revenge for a 35-20 reverse fixture in Auckland earlier this year.

Murphy's Law states anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Foster would be forgiven for buying into that mantra for this test.

Jacques Nienaber and Ian Foster.
Jacques Nienaber and Ian Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

In the first half alone, the All Blacks lost prop Tyrel Lomax to injury and Scott Barrett - arguably their form player in 2023 - to a red card.

And down to 14 players, having also seen two further yellow cards beforehand, there was no way back for the All Blacks.

For a team that had so far conquered all before them this year, you could argue defeat has come at the right time.

It's better to have such a chastening loss now, in an ultimately meaningless test, than in a World Cup crunch match.

But the All Blacks will also argue no test match - especially against South Africa - is ever meaningless.

And bearing the scars of the All Blacks' largest defeat, Foster has vowed to use the lessons to build towards the next test of his side's mettle, a Rugby World Cup opener against France on September 9.

"We got a good lesson there, from a team who played really well up front," said Foster. "We've got a lot of confidence in how we've been tracking in that area.

"But you can't deny, that wasn't a good performance from us. We've got a couple of weeks to get that right.

"But we fully believe that we can."

From a player's perspective, the loss makes for equally poor reading.

None of the 23 All Blacks that took the field can claim to have outplayed their opposite on Saturday morning.

But, the past 12 months have already seen the All Blacks come back from the brink, fittingly against South Africa to save their coach's job.

And for captain Sam Cane, the confidence his men will do the exact same yet again is there, in full. 

Scott Barrett shown a red card against South Africa.
Scott Barrett shown a red card against South Africa. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a test match at the end of the day, it's an opportunity the 23 of us had to pull on an All Black jersey, go out there and do ourselves and the nation proud," said Cane.

"We certainly feel like we've come up short tonight. But we've got to make sure we use this as a positive.

"We've got to look at our own games, [and] find ways to get better. We can use this to find some good from it - even though it stings at the moment."

Meanwhile, if there is one positive to take away for the All Blacks, Foster is happy to see expectations of his side slip.

Grouped with hosts France, and on the same side of the draw as world No.1 Ireland and a South African side that's just inflicted a record defeat, you'd be forgiven for ranking the All Blacks fourth on that list of contenders.

While the All Blacks rarely - if ever - go into a tournament as outsiders, Foster is happy to play the role of dark horses come France in a couple of weeks.

"We also know the circumstances we're in, we know the goal we're looking for. [In] the build-up to World Cups, every team goes through different phases.

"We've got two weeks now, we're going to go into a World Cup [that] we're pretty excited about.

"That performance will take a lot of heat off us, no one's going to rate us now.

"We'll just go and prepare quietly and get stuck in."