Cape Town – The All Blacks’ second-half effort against Wales helped the world champions to a 39-21 victory in Auckland on Saturday.
Much of the credit for the home side’s 24 points, that were scored after the break, has gone to the impact of the replacement bench.
Each New Zealand player, however, wants to be named amongst the starting XV, but the replacements high work-rate cannot go unnoticed.
It was the introduction of the likes of Wyatt Crockett, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu that ensured Steven Hansen’s men not only scored 24 points but also restricted Wales to a single penalty in the second 40.
Blues’ loose forward Jerome Kaino, who started for the two-time world champions in his 68th Test, believes that the replacements have an important role to fulfill.
“The first half’s usually quite intense and then you come out at halftime and try and find a point of difference and, for us, we like to see our bench as that point of difference and it comes on and pushes the team through that final 15 minutes,” Kaino told Stuff.
“Like, in the weekend you had guys coming on like Crocky [Crockett], Patrick [Tuipulotu], a lot of guys came and injected a bit of energy, a bit of voice.
“It’s a huge boost for us guys that start the game and are still on there in that final quarter.”
The All Blacks have perfected what most teams have failed to do, consistently, and that is to maintain intensity for the entire match, sometimes past the 80 minute mark.
“Any person in our squad could be on that starting team and whoever we have on the bench, whoever comes off the bench adds the same intensity as if they were starting,” Kaino added.
“So, yeah, the depth that we have, we’re quite lucky in New Zealand.
“But also the mindset that we have here with the All Blacks [is that] you prepare as if you’re going on in that first minute and when you get onto that pitch you add that same intensity as if you were starting.”
33-year-old Crockett admits that every All Black wants to be in the run-on team, however, he added that the bench adds real value given the vital role they have.
“Games are won in that last part of the game, so you’ve still got a really important role,” said Crockett.
“[But] obviously we all want to start, there’s no hiding behind that.”
“We all want to be the first one out there, but at the same time we know we’ve got a really important role because the games are won in that last 30 minutes generally; the tough test matches, the tight ones.”