Johannesburg – All Blacks coach Ian Foster has fielded a number of critical comments related to his ability over the past few weeks.
On Saturday evening in the dungeons of Ellis Park it was the turn of the All Blacks coach to fire back after his team’s famous Rugby Championship win over the Springboks.
“It has been pretty vicious,” Foster said of the criticism that had been levelled at him during a run that had seen the All Blacks win just one out of their previous six Tests.
He took particular aim at his countrymen, who had written Foster’s obituary prior to the 35-23 Ellis Park victory already.
“There’s been a lot of onslaught, particularly from our New Zealand media. They’ve got high expectations of us, and they’ve made that loud and clear. They’ve clearly come very strong at me as a person – some of them have even called some of our selections ‘pop-guns’ which I found quite insulting for players that give everything to play for their nation,” he said.
After five successive epic Tests against Ireland (home) and the Springboks (away), the All Blacks now head back Down Under for two home Tests against Argentina and home and away fixtures against Australia.
It is not inconceivable that the All Blacks may now actually go on to win the Rugby Championship despite their dire start to the international season. But whether the victory over the Boks will be sufficient for Foster to oversee this challenge, is not entirely clear yet.
“I have no idea, I am just going to enjoy tonight,” Foster told SkySports.
He elaborated further post-match: “The stress has been really good for me. I think I’ve lost 1kg the last two weeks, and maybe over the next week or two I might lose a few more … it comes with the job.
“I’m intensely proud of the performance. I could not be more proud. To do that at altitude with the game swinging around — there were times we could have won and times we could have lost.
“It was 0-0 for a long time and you could feel it was a real arm-wrestle, but that is what South Africa are like here.
“You have to bide your time and we wanted to target the second half and tired legs with the way we wanted to play.”
The 57-year-old was not ready to claim that his team had turned the corner on the Highveld of South Africa, but does believe that the past two weeks spent in Africa has made them stronger as a unit.
“That pressure has been strong. It doesn’t change the fact that adversity is the best teacher for character and we’ve stayed tight,” Foster said.
“Long-term success often starts with adversity, with a low point. We’ve lost three in a row this year and it hurts. Last week we saw signs of our game, our combativeness … we’re breeding a few young boys in here, a few new combinations, and that takes time.
“Some people don’t have the patience, and I understand that and get the frustration. But inside the camp … what means a lot to us is how we pull together, work hard and keep growing areas we need to grow to perform,” he added.