An outstanding 80 minute performance
By Roger Childs
There were hints of things to come in the first Lions test, and in the Sydney clash against the Wallabies. The first half across the Tasman saw the All Blacks crush the home team, but then in the last 30 minutes of the game they went to sleep.
No such luck for the Springboks in Albany. It was 31-0 at half time, but there was no let up from the All Blacks in the second half. They kept the pressure on and the players off the bench played superbly to take the score out to an amazing record 57-0.
There was a similar pattern to this year’s tests in the 2015 World Cup. The New Zealand form was mixed in the early matches, but then they hit the French like a fast moving train in the quarter-finals to score over 60 points.
A solid forward platform lets the backs run wild
This was an 80 minute effort with relentless pressure. There were some errors early on with clever Springbok high kicks resulting in two knock-ons. Then the early All Black scrums were buckled and new prop Kane Hames looked out of his depth. And there were missed tackles, with Sonny Bill Williams guilty at least twice.
But once things settled down and the forwards won good possession, the onslaught began. Aaron Smith is faster than Perenara in clearing the ball, and consequently the backs had plenty of room to move. Smith is also a quick thinker and from one penalty he grabbed the ball kicked it wide for the speedy Rieko Ioane to score in the corner.
It was a welcome return for Sam Whitelock and he made a big difference in the lineout and the tight. Dane Coles was back to his best from and, early on, Liam Squire ran hard from kick-offs always breaking the first attempted tackle.
Sam Cane was an absolute monster, clearly loving being able to meet the brutal physicality of the Boks with his tackling strength, and Crotty (was his usual reliable self), it being no coincidence that our backline retained its solidity in defense and penetration in attack even with all the changes in the second half. Neil Smith, our rugby expert from Japan
The All Black back three: Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane are as fast a trio as we have ever had. It was not surprising that four of New Zealand’s tries were scored by the wingers.
The handling was generally excellent and there was some superb inter-change of passing between backs and forwards.
To everyone’s relief, Beauden Barrett was on song with his goal kicking and put over eight out of nine attempts.
The power of the bench
This is the envy of the rugby world. All Blacks reserves often play better than the players they’ve replaced. It was true last night when Crockett took over from Hames in the front row and when Lienert Brown went on for Sonny Bill Williams.
Maybe it’s time for the All Back selectors to stopped worshiping at the shrine of Sonny Bill?
The forward replacements all played very well: Scott Barrett, prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi, hooker Cody Taylor and flanker Ardie Savea.
Can do better?
Absolutely for the Springboks. They met an All Black side in full cry and there is no more fearsome sight! The South Africans will definitely be better on home turf. Their tackling was often good and they had plenty of possession, but the Boks made too many mistakes which the home team swooped on. Too often they were slow clearing the ball and the reliable All Black defence was quick to move up and snuff out would-be attacks.
For the All Blacks it was clear that Kane Hames is not the man to fill the injury gap in the front row. Also in the centres the selectors should leave Sonny Bill on the bench next time.
The final tests against Argentina and South Africa are on the road. The All Blacks will be well aware that the Aussies followed up their walloping in Sydney with a performance in Dunedin that nearly upset the home team’s apple cart.
There can be no complacency.