All Blacks on upward curve

SA Rugby magazine editor SIMON BORCHARDT says a 50-point score for the All Blacks would have been more reflective of their performance on Saturday.

The big question leading up to the Wellington Test was whether New Zealand could match the intensity of their display in Auckland, now that the Boks had shaken off the effects of jet lag. The answer: Hell, yes.

The All Blacks set the tone for the game in the first couple of minutes when Dan Carter’s kick-off sailed past Victor Matfield and was reclaimed by Tom Donnelly. The hosts then dominated the first scrum, before being given another boost when more Bok indiscipline, this time from Danie Rossouw, allowed them to score 10 points against 14 men for the second consecutive week.

Had Carter not failed with five attempts at goal, the All Blacks would have had 26 points by the break, and the 50-mark would surely have been breached.

As they did in Auckland, the All Blacks kept the ball in hand and built momentum by running good lines and off-loading well in the tackle. Graham Henry’s selection of Piri Weepu at scrumhalf was justified as the home-town boy made several strong runs, including one that led to Mils Muliaina’s try. The other new selection, Rene Ranger, added zipp to the All Blacks’ attack in his first Test start and must surely have moved ahead of the out-of-sorts Joe Rokocoko in the left-wing pecking order. He showed outstanding finishing to score in the left-hand corner, although he was lucky not to have been yellow carded for a shoulder charge a few minutes earlier.

The All Blacks forwards again matched the physicality of the Boks, which allowed Carter time with the ball. Ma’a Nonu made eight ball carries in the first half (compared to one by opposite number Wynand Olivier), which shows just how dominant the hosts were.

The All Blacks emptied their bench in the second half when the game was won, with Israel Dagg making the biggest impact. The fullback stepped past three Bok defenders (Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger and Zane Kirchner) to show why he’s drawn comparisons to a young Christian Cullen. Surely he’ll have made the No 15 jersey his own by the end of the Tri-Nations.

However, while Henry and his coaching staff have every right to smile and enjoy another win against the world champions, they’ll know there’s room for improvement. In a 10-minute period in the first half (from the 16th to the 26th), they lost the ball four times in contact. Muliaina also dropped two up-and-unders in the first half, the forwards lost a lineout in the second when they went to the back, while Richie McCaw conceded too many penalties at the breakdown, as he admitted afterwards.

But those are minor concerns. The fact is you can’t fault two performances that have resulted in 10 log points.

The All Blacks are clearly on an upward curve a year out from the World Cup. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for the Boks.

Join SA Rugby magazine’s Facebook Fan Page
Follow SA Rugby magazine on Twitter