NZ Kiwis players are trying to take the mathematics out of the equation this week, as they prepare for a banana-skin Four Nations match-up with Scotland on Saturday (NZ time).
But fullback Jordan Kahu admits they are ruing past mistakes that have added to the tension, as they try to nail down their spot in next week’s tournament final.
After edging England in their campaign opener and falling narrowly to world champions Australia last week, New Zealand have the inside running on a place at Anfield and a chance to defend their title from two years ago.
All they require is victory against the Scots and an Australian win over England to set the scene for a trans-Tasman showdown at the iconic home of Liverpool FC.
But if the home side were to somehow topple the Kangaroos, then points differential becomes crucial and the Kiwis’ margin of success over Scotland becomes doubly important.
Weigh that against the temptation to blood several tour rookies this week and you begin to understand the dilemma facing coach David Kidwell.
But Kahu insists his team-mates aren’t sweating too much on the outcome, just the process.
“As players, we haven’t been focusing on [points differential] too much,” he says. “We had missed opportunities against Australia and England, and points have gone begging, so we’re really just focusing on ourselves to make sure we’re at the top of our game.
“Hopefully, if we put our best footy on the park, that will help us with the differential.
“When we play England and Australia, it’s always hard to get points. Defensively, they’re both pretty good teams and we’ve been trying our best, but those missed opportunities haven’t helped.
“If we can rectify that, then I guess we can put more points on the board.”
Apart from the opening stages against England, when they jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, the Scots haven’t really threatened an upset so far, but that’s not to say they won’t provide a tricky obstacle in that scramble for final spots.
Kahu, for one, refuses to write them off.
“They’re gutsy. They’ve definitely put their hand up and shown they’re competitive at this level.
“We’re coming to Scotland and playing their home team. I know if Scotland were coming to New Zealand, we would definitely be putting our best team on the park, so we’re going to prepare like we’re playing anyone else and make sure everyone turns up on Friday.”
The composition of that Kiwis line-up should become clearer within 24 hours and Kidwell may opt to test some of the exciting new talent waiting in the wings.
Five-eighth Te Maire Martin, wing/fullback David Fusitu’a, and forwards Joseph Tapine and James Fisther-Harris are all vying to become Kiwi #800, while one-test winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is another champing at the bit.
“They definitely deserve a shot,” says Kahu, who may well have to step aside to make room, if those newcomers are to be accommodated.
“They’ve been here with us since Perth and pushing us at training, making sure we’re fighting for our positions.
“They all deserve a chance to wear the black jersey and If they do, they’ve been training like they’re ready to play some good footy and I’m sure they’ll fit in pretty well.”