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Australia benefits from Super Rugby break

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Sportal.co.nz     31 Jul 2012     Getty Images

Deans will assemble a 36-strong squad in Sydney this week for the second of two training camps ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clashes with New Zealand in Sydney and Auckland next month.

With the Stormers, Sharks, Crusaders and Chiefs all in action in the semi-finals last week and the Chiefs to host the Sharks in the final on Saturday, Hansen and South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer have had their time with key players curtailed.

Deans has been able to begin his preparations early after only the Queensland Reds made the top six and were then bundled out in the opening week of the finals by the Sharks.

"I think it's a big advantage to them [Australia]," said Hansen, who will hold a two-day wider training group camp, excluding Chiefs players, in Wellington this week.

"The more preparation time you have the better chance you have of getting your game organised and your structures built in and the clarity.

"We were very fortunate that we managed to, in a very short period of time, get that sorted against Ireland.

"But the Rugby Championship is going to be a totally different contest.

"We're playing two of the top-ranked sides in the world and then you've got Argentina on top of that. The more preparation time you can get the better I think."

Hansen felt however having players playing finals rugby could work in the All Blacks favour.

"It gives them experiences that you don't normally get. They are valuable, particularly if you are successful," he said.

"The Chiefs are going to come into our squad full of confidence because they've performed really, really well. That's a bonus."

Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles was the only new face named in the wider training group that will assemble in the capital on Wednesday and Thursday.

Coles has been in dynamic form for the Hurricanes this season and has improved in his core roles in the scrum and line-out.

"We've seen him performing to a high level consistently, particularly in the areas that we're looking for," said Hansen.

"We just want to come into camp and have a look at some of the set-piece stuff real close up and see how he's going with that.

"There's no doubt he's a very good footballer around the park. We've just got to establish with our own eyes and in our own conditions how he goes with his throwing and scrummaging."

Injured players Ali Williams, Luke Romano, Kieran Read and Conrad Smith were also included in the 28-strong group.

Smith, who had eye surgery for a detached retina, is out for at least six weeks and will miss the Bledisloe Cup fixtures. Williams (knee) is also unavailable for the early part of the Rugby Championship.

But Hansen said Romano (shoulder) and Read (ribs) should be right for the first Test against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 18.

Smith's injury has left the All Blacks a little light in midfield, but Hansen said no consideration was given to bringing in Ryan Crotty, Robbie Fruean or Tim Bateman to the camp.

Ma'a Nonu and Tamati Ellison were labelled the 'prime candidates' to be involved in that first Test alongside Sonny Bill Williams, who is expected to get permission from his new Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights to delay his arrival so he can play in the Bledisloe Cup matches.

"It's obvious that we're interested in using Sonny for a couple of weeks while he is still contracted to New Zealand, particularly as Panasonic are going to come to the party and support us which it looks like they are going to do," said Hansen.

"We'd be foolish not to use him. He's in outstanding form. We can cover those three with someone like Ben Smith in the squad if we pick him."

Specialist skills coach Mick Byrne has also been welcomed back into the All Blacks coaching set-up.

Byrne was part of the coaching team that won the World Cup but was not part of the recent series win against Ireland.