Muliaina letting himself be heard

NZPA     13 Aug 2008

The fullback is one of the experienced hands in a 26-strong All Blacks tour party in which almost half the members have yet to play a Test in South Africa.

Muliaina's 62 caps, matched by prop Greg Somerville's tally, is bettered only by skipper Richie McCaw's 63 among the present squad.
Muliaina said the loss of experience through players going overseas and retirement was just something that happened.

"But it's put a massive onus on us guys who have been here a bit longer to step up," he said.

Muliaina, 28, became a captain for the first time since high school this year when he led the Chiefs in the Rebel Sport Super 14 after injury to regular skipper Jono Gibbes.

He admitted that his style in the past had been to let his actions do the talking.

Now he had become one of senior figures in the All Blacks squad, he was learning to make his voice heard more.

"I think that's been the hardest bit for me, being able to voice my opinion and not just be there and wait for someone else to say something," he said.

"It's starting to come naturally and it's pretty good."

The All Blacks face the Springboks in Cape Town on Sunday morning (NZT) when the Philips Tri Nations resumes after a week off.

The New Zealanders were licking their wounds after an emphatic 19-34 loss to the Wallabies in Sydney on July 26 which left them facing the prospect of three consecutive losses after having also gone down to South Africa in Dunedin two weeks earlier.

But they responded with a remarkable turnaround, thumping the Wallabies 39-10 in Auckland on August 2 and climbing back to the top of the table.

Now it was a case of backing up that effort and not sliding backwards, Muliaina said.

"We just have to get out there and step up again like we did against the Australians," he said.

"It was a massive learning curve for us, being beaten by so much in Sydney and having been under a lot of pressure."

For Muliaina, that pressure was a plus rather and a minus and the edginess the All Blacks felt before the Test in Auckland helped rather than hindered them.

"Obviously, you have to do your homework and things like that, and then you have to be on edge," he said.

"It's always easy to get up when you've got your backs against the wall. That extra bit of excitement comes from being against the wall."
This weekend will also be a chance to make amends for the All Blacks' defeat to the Springboks at Carisbrook.

A brilliant piece of individualism by halfback Ricky Januarie proved the matchwinner for South Africa, who edged home 30-28 for their first victory in New Zealand in a decade.

"There's no doubt about it, Dunedin was pretty tough," Muliaina said.

"One moment of brilliance from Ricky and we were goneburger."