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Coles growing as an All Blacks hooker

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James Mortimer     16 Sep 2013     Getty Images

A fact that is delighting All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen, who promoted Coles into the Test environment wary of the age of his two veteran hookers.

Hansen said that Coles was coming through nicely, but more importantly “loved” what he was doing, a good sign as with each outing it appears that the Hurricanes and Wellington rake is relishing the tough stuff more and more with each outing.

The 26-year-old’s starting nod against the Springboks may have raised some eyebrows, with many suggesting that the tough as teak Mealamu or Hore might have been better suited to withstand the initial confrontations, but the young number two passed what was his toughest exam so far.

Not content with merely developing the Paraparaumu born forward, the All Blacks have been giving other young hookers a taste.

Liam Coltman, Rhys Marshall and more recently Nathan Harris have been given their first feel of international preparation, while the depth will be maintained with Mealamu signed with New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2014, with the potential to extend one further season.

Coles said some adjustment was necessary with first facing the South Africans.

“I was just getting used to a different side, they scrum differently,” he said.

“But as the game went along we knuckled down and did pretty well towards the end.”

The Wellington hooker, who made his provincial debut in 2007, admitted it was a “welcome to Test footy” moment when the Springboks first shove created problems for the All Blacks pack, and Coles admitted the contest was up from what he was used to.

“The intensity was right up there,” he said.

“The speed of the game was at another level.”