The All Blacks have yet to bring their full game to the Rugby World Cup, coach Steve Hansen said after their 43-10 pool match win over Georgia in Cardiff.
The defending champions scored 22 points in the first 22 minutes on Saturday (AEDT), including a spectacular opening try to Waisake Naholo and a double to fellow winger Julian Savea.
However, the four early tries were followed by just three more in New Zealand’s third unconvincing pool display following wins over Argentina and Namibia.
The All Blacks were often the architects of their struggles, making 19 handling errors as they attempted to play at speed against an obdurate defence.
With one final pool match against Tonga remaining, the All Blacks have sealed their place in the quarter-finals and Hansen has hinted that’s when they’re likely to unveil their complete game.
Hansen said he had deliberately challenged his side to play differently against Georgia, rather than merely amass as many points as possible.
In particular, he asked the All Blacks to restrict their kicking game and play under pressure in their own half for long periods of time.
He described the game afterwards as “the perfect work-out”.
“We want to build parts of our game that we know we are going to need later on in this competition if we are going to survive in it.
“Now that’s been to the detriment of some of the other stuff that you normally work on,” he said.
“As we get closer to the quarter-final when it’s sudden death – then we’ll bring our whole game.”
Hansen said the All Blacks were wary of revealing too much too soon, particularly given they were playing in a pool acknowledged by most as one of the weakest at the World Cup.
“Everyone’s told us that we’ve got this weak pool, so that’s how we manufacture something that allows us to practice stuff that we’re going to get later on.
“If we brought our whole game straight away, everybody gets to see what we’ve got and that hasn’t worked for us in the past.
“We’re trying a different tack, and we know we’ve got to get better but we’ve got a plan and we’re comfortable with that plan.”
The All Blacks have shifted north to Durham, where they will begin preparations for their final pool game against Tonga in Newcastle.