On Sunday night the All Blacks selectors confirmed what even my Mum could have told you – that league convert Sonny Bill Williams would be taken on the end of year tour, the defacto dress rehearsal for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
I mean, why in God’s name would you bring the guy back from France, pay him what apparently makes him the third highest earning rugby player in the country (after McCaw and Carter), and leave him to languish in the ITM Cup with the RWC less than a year away? Why would you ignore his potential as a brand, with the game increasingly competing for our entertainment dollar against league, and increasingly, soccer? And perhaps most importantly – why would you ignore his awesome, awesome potential as a matchwinning gamebreaker?
Apart from an injury impacted start (and a poor decision concerning a ski trip), SBW has been really quite spectacular forCanterbury. He is phenomenally strong, has an almost unbelievable ability to draw defenders and offload in contact, and perhaps most importantly he has improved with each passing week. He perhaps still struggles a little operating within Union’s defensive patterns, but surely there is no better place or time for him to work on his defense than in the All Black team environment? Continue reading
Duncan and Aaron discuss the inglorious end to the Warriors season (detouring through the way Mt Smart’s running track deflates the home side), the ABs new personality and an extended discussion about New Zealand sportsmen’s acting abilities – with particular reference to the on-screen career of Stephen Fleming.
http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F5364489%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-3XlG8&secret_url=false DeadCast: BALLS! 029 feat The Warriors, The Tri-Nations & NZ Sportsmen in Advertising by Deadball
After a week in which a massive earthquake slammed the Canterbury region, causing massive damage to Christchurch’s brick and stone buildings (including the home of All Blacks’ assistant coach Steve Hansen), and aftershocks continued to jangle the nerves, nobody will be thanking the AB’s for leaving their winning run quite so late, even if the victory itself will be some sort of salve.
With Daniel Carter undergoing surgery on his troublesome right ankle (which may, in part, explain his poor 2010 goalkicking form), coach Graham Henry took the chance to blood Carter’s understudy, 21 year old Aaron Cruden at five-eighth, together with run on starts for blindside Victor Vito and wing/ fullback (they’re all doing it these days) Israel Dagg. They encountered a Wallabies outfit returning from the Republic who could have reasonably been expected to be weary, but still fired up from their win in Bloemfontein, their first on the high veldt in 46 years. Despite the fact that the match was a dead rubber where the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe were concerned, this was still a game that both teams very much wanted to win – the Wallabies to carry on from last week’s victory, and to gain some momentum leading into next year’s World Cup, the All Blacks seeking to hammer home their dominance over the Wallabies (ten in a row), and to continue a fifteen test match winning streak. Continue reading
Poor old John Smit. After 77 minutes of brutal, bludgeoning Tri-Nations rugby, in his hundredth test match, his under-the-cosh side were sitting five points clear of their 2010 tormentors, the All Blacks, with the score at 22-17. Finally something was going to go right for him; his loose forwards had performed like recently-deployed exocet missiles, Morne Steyn was a dead-eye Dick with his goalkicking, and new halfback Francois Hougaard had kicked intelligently and made lots of darting runs up round the fringes, a la Fourie du Preez. They had driven the AB’s back in the tackle more often than not, their scrum and line-out had stood up, and it looked for all the world like he was going to receive the ultimate party gift in front of a massive Soweto crowd of 90-odd thousand. His 2010 hoodoo was about to be broken.
And then, after 81 minutes, he was kneeling, his face in his hands, with his team on the wrong side of a 29-22 scoreline. He had the same hollow, dead eyed look that Dan Carter and Anton Oliver sported from the stands in ‘that’ 2007 RWC quarter-final. Good God fearing man that he is, he really must have wondered what the hell happened. Continue reading
DeadBall’s regular guest rugby reporter Jeremy Taylor gives us a mid-term report on the ABs, in his words “a bit like what Marc Hinton has done in [yesterday’s] Sunday Star Times, but I actually started last week, so, fuck him, y’know…”
With the Bledisloe Cup duly secured, and the Tri-Nations all but in the bag following a tighter victory over a much-improved Wallabies in Christchurch, it seems opportune to take stock of where we are at a little more than a year out from the World Cup. Messrs Henry, Smith and Hansen have made some tough calls about the kind of game they want to play (and who they want to play it) that have, for the most part, come off in spades; the team’s fitness and execution have been phenomenal; and to top it all off, they have had the rub of the green from the match officials. Let’s look at some key areas of strength, as well as a few possible weaknesses that the coaches will be keen to address: Continue reading