As he glances towards the hotel bar All Black head coach Steve Hansen struggles to stifle a laugh.
He succeeds — just — and instead watches in bemused silence as the Italian television reporter holds up his half-pint of lager for the camera, takes a sip and says ‘cheers’, mimicking what Hansen and Bok counterpart Heyneke Meyer will do after Saturday’s match.
With a shake of the head Hansen walks up the ornate staircase to the first floor of the hotel, away from the prying eyes of the media gathered below.
As a snapshot of All Black life, it is instructive. The eyes of the world are on them, but they just shrug and carry on as normal.
The message, repeated again and again, is that this is nothing out of the ordinary.
To them, it is normal to have 200 members of the media in the conservatory of their hotel. It is normal to be asked whether they really are the best team in history. It is normal to be under this amount of pressure and scrutiny.
Hansen — a man whose sense of humour is as dry as the Sahara — is refusing to buy into the hype.
“He (Meyer) has been very, very complimentary,” he said of his opposite number in tomorrow’s World Cup semi-final. “He has just about killed us with kindness. We know they really want to rip our heads off, so we are not taking too much notice of that.
“He’s a cunning wee devil, Heyneke. He has been praising us all week and, while I know he means some of it, I know they’re getting ready to rip our heads off.”
But the All Blacks can give it out as well as they can take it.
The only new man in their team this weekend is the prop, Joe Moody. Not even in the original 31-man squad until called up as an injury replacement, his offload for Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s score in the 62-13 evisceration of France proved he was probably right to forsake his dream of becoming a professional wrestler to try his hand at rugby.
“I started wrestling when I was seven and gave it up when I was 21 to focus on rugby,” said Moody, who was national champion and came 15th in the 2007 Junior Wrestling World Championships.
“It helps with body awareness, and you can use it a bit at clean-out and breakdown. But not too much, as I would probably be on the sideline with yellow cards.”
The media interest in Moody underlines the fact we know so much about the other All Blacks.
When it comes to Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, every platitude has already been said, every opponent defeated. Beat South Africa and then either Argentina or Australia and they will confirm themselves as the finest team in rugby history.
But it is Hansen who sets the tone. His laid-back style is balanced by a focused intensity that shines through in south-west London.
He admits there is fear involved at this stage. More than that, he welcomes it.
“I think if you use another word than respect, it’s fear,” says Hansen. “There is something in it that makes you fear something. It’s a stupid man that doesn’t fear.
“If you are going into a fight, for example, if you don’t fear the guy you are fighting, you are either fighting the wrong bloke or you are stupid. That fear just heightens everything.
“It makes sure all your emotions are in the right place so you can actually deliver the performance you need to.
“So whilst you respect people, there is a fear factor in this game. If you don’t win you don’t get the prize you want, which is to go to the final.”
There is a fear, too, that the All Blacks played almost too well against France. One of the all-time great displays will count for nothing if they come unstuck this weekend.
“I think the hardest thing in this week’s preparation is coming off the back of such a great win because externally, everybody has got a little bit carried away with themselves and there have been some outrageous statements,” says Hansen.
“You’ve got to enjoy that moment and can’t hide from it, but you have to put a full stop on it. Otherwise, you don’t go from great to great — you go from great to struggling.”
But the All Blacks aren’t struggling. Instead, Hansen is being asked what beer he will buy Meyer to maintain their tradition of the victor helping the losing coach drown his sorrows post-match. He refuses to contemplate answering, but the Italian TV reporter tries to do it for him. It earns him a shake of the head.
In All Black country World Cup semi-final week is just like any other. “We,” smiles Hansen, “are exactly where we want to be.” South Africa have been warned.
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