WELLINGTON - Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has lauded the All Blacks for being among the most mentally strong teams in world sport.
Six years after New Zealand were pilloried as soft-centred chokers after yet another World Cup meltdown, McKenzie marvelled at how the world champions consistently continued with ruthless efficiency Test after Test.
They enter Saturday night's second Bledisloe game with a 16-3 win-loss record over Australia from 20 trans-Tasman Tests dating back to their 2007 World Cup disappointment when bundled out at the quarter-final stage as favourites.
The All Blacks' recent dominance, capped by their 2011 World Cup triumph, hasn't abated since a 2009 series glitch against South Africa.
As a grizzled Test prop and then Wallabies assistant coach during the 1990s until 2003, McKenzie enjoyed a 50 per cent success rate against New Zealand and likes to think his team can also rise to their immense challenge.
But first they must believe.
"The mental part of the game is very important," McKenzie said.
"The All Blacks have earned the right to be the most complacent team in the world but they are not.
"They always front up.
"Other teams in the world have to compete to be in the same space."
McKenzie said Australia's plans to overturn their 47-29 first Test loss started within each of the minds of his Wallabies players.
"It's not just a matter of working on the training paddock ... everyone has to search inside yourself and find out where you are," he said.
"That's what you have to do to be the best."
Veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper stressed the Wallabies believed they could end a 12-year drought in New Zealand.
But he said it was crucial they didn't repeat the sloppy mistakes which led to four of the world champions' six tries in Sydney last weekend.
"It's a game of fine margins but the All Blacks are good enough to exploit those fine margins if you give them the opportunity to," he said. "So we've had to tidy a few little things up."