Most people seem resigned to the fact that Richard Kahui, effortless and infinatly more handsome, will eventually, if not soon, claim sole possesion of the All Blacks number thirteen from Conrad Smith.
Smith is the type of player no longer welcomed in the world of marketable sports. Every step he takes seems on the verge of castostrophy – his limbs flail awkwardly and legs move slowly. Like a distant observer or watchful prey, he reacts to the defense rather than impinging any will upon it. Yet , oddly, things happen when he touchs the ball – a gap is stumbled upon, an awkward pass made to support, a timely tackle in the oppostions 22.
Conrad Smith is so outside the game that it’s hard not notice when he intervenes on its course. Unfortunately, his outsiderness also limits the credit he recieves. Henry reluctantly keeps Smith on the field, as though his presence is an affront to the harsh efficiency the All Blacks aim to cultivate. Smith does not fit the interchangability that Henry cherishes, precisely because no one can replicate the randomness of his play. This individuality may be his ultimate downfall. Kahui waits patiently.
For Kahui, every move is a coalition between his body and the game. Nothing is strained -passes crisp , moves decisive. He is inside the game – so much so that he is in danger of dissapearing into its rhythm. Kahui plays rugby the right way, but he’s yet to work out how to translate this into a true controlling presence. He’ll probably get there, but let’s not forget Conrad, who steped out of the shadow of the All Black brand purely by virtue of his own limitations and shambolic success.