The All Blacks are feeling pressure from all sides to rebound after their shock home defeat to Argentina but are not far away from producing a winning performance, according to embattled captain Sam Cane.
The All Blacks lost at home to the Pumas for the first time in Christchurch on Saturday and another defeat to the South Americans in Hamilton this weekend would imperil their RugbyChampionship title defence.
“There’s that pressure, there’s the external pressure and there’s the internal pressure that we put on ourselves,” Cane told reporters at training on Tuesday.
“We’re not happy with how we fronted up last week so, (there’s) heaps of pressure.”
While coach Ian Foster and the All Blacks staff have shouldered most of the blame for the team’s struggles, flanker Cane has also been a lightning rod for criticism from disgruntled fans.
Former Blues coach-turned-TV pundit John Kirwan said the leadership group were failing the team and called for openside Cane to be dropped and replaced by Dalton Papalii in the back row.
Cane agreed the senior players needed to step up but said the form woes could be reversed with basic improvements in discipline and execution.
“I don’t think it was a horrible performance by any means,” he said of the 25-18 loss in Christchurch, the All Blacks’ sixth defeat in eight tests.
“I don’t think we’re way off. If we could be a little bit more disciplined in that first half and put them under a lot more pressure, then potentially the game changes from there.
“But we didn’t do that and they are a very good side. I think that can be underestimated in this whole thing.”
The All Blacks may have reinforcements in the form of former world players of the year, lock Brodie Retallick and five-eighth Beauden Barrett, with both back at training after injuries.
Barrett said he was in good shape a week after sustaining a neck injury that sidelined him for Christchurch.