Wayne Gray wrote an interesting article (Prelude of things to come in World Cup) in the New Zealand Herald about the Bulls victory over the Hurricanes. Here are some extracts:
Fast forward to October. The All Blacks want to play a fast-paced, ball-in-hand style of rugby at the World Cup.
The Springboks will favour muscular confrontation and an aerial bombardment if they adhere to recent comments from coach Peter de Villiers, who wondered why his side should vary much from the attritional, combative style the Springboks had used with success in annexing two World Cups.
Late-night kickoffs, greasy conditions, rugby under increased sudden-death pressure and lights – they are conditions favouring a kicking game unless your interplay is spot-on.
The Bulls favoured their regular kick-chase template at Napier on Saturday night when they surged to a handy halftime lead which allowed them to withstand the second-half rush from the Hurricanes.
The spine of the Boks side was on show – Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez and Pierre Spies – the brains-trust and hub of their formula backed by the muscular power of Bakkies Botha and aerial genius Victor Matfield.
Tack on a belligerent defensive attitude and you are not far short of the Springbok template.
Add in the best players from the unbeaten Stormers and the feisty Sharks, tweak the patterns and the Boks become a rugged unit.
He has the following on the All Blacks in the Hurricane team:
The Hurricanes looked bewildered and uncertain – hardly the portents for a successful outcome.
The pack, apart from Jack Lam, Victor Vito and Andrew Hore seemed ineffective and the heat was transferred to their backline. They earned little change as well.
The back three of Cory Jane, Hosea Gear and Julian Savea underwent many catching tests with varying rates of success, not really the impression they want to deliver in their quest for All Black honours.
Gear looked likely on his return after a lengthy injury, Jane appeared uncertain and Savea has not started with any great accuracy.
The heat this week from the Bulls will go on three more contenders for the black uniform – Israel Dagg, Zac Guildford and Sean Maitland- when they play against the Crusaders.
Dagg and Jane are in a mighty scrap for international fullback-wing duties while Guildford and Maitland are well placed to make statements this weekend.
And they won’t die wondering. If anything is as certain as death and taxes, it is the kicking focus from the Bulls.
Here are some responses by New Zealanders on this article:
It is interesting that as usual there is complete silence in the media on a pretty ordinary game from Conrad Smith. He barely featured at all. To say that Cory Jane had an “uncertain” game and then not even mention Smith’s performance is ridiculous.
Why he gets a free pass from the media all the time is beyond me. Everyone is always searching for excuses for him – sure, he doesn’t beat his man and his passing is nothing spectacular, but the backs are just “better organized” when he’s there. Whenever the backs play well, it’s “because of the guiding hand of Conrad Smith.” Leave aside the fact there is no evidence of that I ask this question – wouldn’t it then be fair to place the blame on Smith when the backline is disjointed, like it was in this Hurricanes game?
I think the media should take a hard look at whether they are praising Smith because of his performances, or because the reputation that they have built for him. Ask yourselves – when was the last time you saw a standout performance from Smith (based on his own play, not on the vague statement that he somehow makes the backline better).
The bulls were very efficient but they were allowed to be, this Hurricanes side is the worst in the franchise’s history – and that’s saying something!
How Mark Hammett managed to get that job without any obvious credentials will forever be a mystery.
As can be seen from the last statement Mark Hammett is also under extreme pressure at the Hurricanes.
One scribe writes:
The appointment of Mark Hammett to coach the Hurricanes in 2011 was rash in terms of suitability.
After a comparatively brief stint as assistant Crusaders coach, a certain panic was involved in giving Hammett the top rugby job in Wellington.
After missing out as Crusaders head coach to Todd Blackadder, Hammett was seriously chased by the new Aussie franchise, the Rebels.
The Canterbury hard man gave every indication that he was keen which in turn, prompted NZRU chief, Steve Tew to hastily offer him the Hurricanes role aimed at quashing the risk of losing a senior coach to Australia.
Consequently, Hammett accepted Tew’s offer and Wellington’s incumbent, provincial coach Jamie Joseph, who wanted the Hurricanes position was moved sideways to the Highlanders.
Well everything is clearly not nice and cosy in the land of the Silver fern. Nonu is apparently emotionally at the lowest he has been in his career. The Chiefs and Hurricanes have had poor starts with the Highlanders and the Blues with reasonable starts. The Highlanders is definitely the surprise package of the tournament so far while the Crusaders seem to be a step above everyone else.
What is clear, for me, from the responses this week is that the pressure is beginning to mount and that there is already questions about how the AB should approach the WC tournament.
Gone is all last year’s hype about the “New Style of rugby” the All Blacks brought to the table with the pundits starting to ponder whether shifting to winning rugby and away from being stylish and flash as the best strategy for the WC.
It will be interesting to see what happens next week after the Bulls/Crusaders game. A win by the bulls might see this view (play to win and not to shine) getting more support. My gut feeling is that the Bulls are going to lose badly and that will bring even more debate on how the All Blacks should play.
Personally I can’t wait for the Stormers/Crusaders game. That match has the potential to provide some indication how the Springboks should approach the All Blacks this year.