All Blacks mull maul conundrum

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The Independent Online

Steve Hansen isn't a fan of rugby's maul but the All Blacks forward coach is anxious his team start mastering it - preferably by this weekend.

One clear point of difference when the Springboks beat New Zealand 28-19 in Bloemfontein last weekend was the hosts' ability to chew up chunks of metres through mauling, mainly off lineouts and kick offs.



The All Blacks often transgressed in the process of stopping such drives, fuelling the penalty count against them as the test slipped out of reach in the first half.



It is a fundamental area to improve ahead of Sunday morning's (NZT) Tri-Nations test in Durban.



"It's definitely a problem if we can't stop it," Hansen said.



"South Africa are very good at what they do.



"You don't see many (New Zealand) provincial sides or franchise sides doing much of it.



"That's not the point. South Africa do and we've got to learn how to stop it and be successful at that."



However, Hansen also voiced concern about how the maul was being interpreted by referees.



He believed many allowed teams to get away with shepherding the ball carrier at the back of a drive, thereby giving the defending side no legal way of stopping it.



"The maul at the moment is something the IRB (International Rugby Board) are looking at very strongly," he said.



"It's a unique thing in that it's the only time you're allowed to have legal obstruction.



"It's something that's probably one of the difficult things in the game at the moment. You've got to have mauling in the game but it's got to be a fair contest too."



It is a busy week for Hansen, who must repair his team's spluttering lineout as well as fine-tune the maul defence and breakdown technique.



Another problem area is the kick off.



The All Blacks were often nailed deep in their own half when South Africa restarted thanks to flying winger Bryan Habana hammering the catcher before he could move.



In contrast, when New Zealand kicked off, it often went short and was gobbled up unchallenged by lock Victor Matfield.



Hansen was disappointed his pack didn't do justice to some lofted restarts.



"There was plenty of opportunity to nail Matfield too but we just didn't," he said.



"The kicks hung in the air well and long enough. We could have done more with them than we did.



"Our chase wasn't as good as the Boks' chase was."



Hansen said the sort of pressure Habana applied at kick off was "a good lesson for our blokes".

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald

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