The All Blacks play their next match in a fortnight against the USA Eagles in
- By Kevin McCarthy
I’m sure I’ve referenced the greatest modern philosophy guide of modern times before, but to repeat myself – as in Kung Fu Panda, there is no good news or bad news. There is only news.
This is a wise philosophy to apply to the All Blacks and the Springboks at this point in the season.
Both sides are set to embark on their northern tours soon. Well at least the All Blacks definitely are. Known Bok hardman Duane Vermeulen is voicing concerns that he just can’t take the mental strain of having to make his own bed and clean up his room in MIQ.
The All Blacks lost their final Rugby Championship and brief return to No 1 world ranking on Saturday. This is news.
To read some, you would think this team, which actually comfortably won the championship, in fact probably finished third, behind a resurgent Wallabies and a Springboks now bursting with self belief in their 10-man style. Hmmm.
The Springboks won on Saturday in an epic back and forth struggle, winning a last minute penalty after earlier conceding a last minute penalty. This is news.
To read some, they did so by embracing a healthy mix of running rugby, something the All Blacks did not see coming. They got the win they deserved, and probably should have got a week earlier. Hmmm.
So you see, it is possible to hold many different views, depending on the biases we all hold.
I actually can’t definitively say whether we lost the game on Saturday or whether the Boks won it. If forced to choose, I would say we lost it. Not however because we botched the last 60 seconds – however much that is true.
Instead we lost it – and the Boks won it – much earlier – in that good twenty minute period after halftime when they’d rolled out a new front row. That’s when the forward momentum shifted, and the fault lines already evident in the lineout became critical. We also got beaten up at breakdown.
I’d say the management box needed to react quicker to that.
Even at their flood tide though, the Boks might want to ponder why it came down to the last minute kick to win.
If in alternate history, the Boks or the All Blacks had won both games, what would be settled? We kind of know there is not much between the two. That there is a real arm wrestle of styles going and that will continue to go on.
As for the All Blacks, if they can keep their mental composure on the long trek north, there’s plenty to be positive about, and plenty of dreaded work-ons.
The biggest work on is the pack of course. Could you name the preferred eight based on selections to date? Would you agree on it? Still, there are plenty of options and a couple of breakthrough players (Blackadder in particular).
The return of some frontliners and the skipper will help settle some of the merry go round down.
Ardie’s going to stay on a learning curve on international captaincy, but there’s no sign his game is suffering.
As for King Jordie, give the little fella a wee rest. He surely is now the first name pencilled in after the captain. As Canes fans know, he’s no longer the jittery young fellow we saw a few seasons ago, but the sort of star you build teams around.
The Northern Hemisphere teams will offer different but similar challenges to those of the Boks. We’ll see how the two teams go respectively on their trips, and get another sort of gauge on where the rivals are headed.
Tossed by uncertainty, and for the Lions an inexplicable genius for losing close finishes this season, what would normally be an NPC highlight of any year is tonight.
Heck, it’s still a highlight. Wellington v Canterbury. There are even some All Blacks to enjoy.
Come on the Lions, some will be forgiven if you win!