Has Barrett's bubble burst?
As the All Blacks get set to take on the Springboks tonight, first fiveeighth Beauden Barrett is under the microscope. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn takes a look at what all the fuss is about.
ACCUSATION ‘‘His goalkicking
is not up to it’’
Barrett kicked at just 56% in this year’s Super Rugby competition, though the majority of kicking for the Hurricanes was done by his younger brother, Jordie.
Big brother Beauden missed some of crucial shots at goal against the Lions but overall in test rugby he is sitting at about a 70% success rate.
He kicked every goal under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium last month.
A return of 70% is good enough but many of his contemporaries are up to 80% and beyond.
Verdict: He is still slotting seven out of 10 kicks at goal. Not bad. Alternatively, maybe for Beauden’s sake, every test in New Zealand should be at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
‘‘Pass is too slow’’
This is stretching it a bit. All the Sonny Bill Williams defenders are blaming the struggles of the big man on the slow service inside him.
Barrett has got plenty of tricks up his sleeve and throws some great passes. His poor service did not seem to impact those playing outside him at the Hurricanes, as the outside backs racked up the tries this season.
‘‘Not finding the gaps any more’’
It is true that Barrett is not lighting it up as well as he did last year.
But have a look around you people. Is it raining today? It must be. It has rained nearly every day since May and in every every single test played this year at home, apart from, obviously, in Dunedin.
Wet weather has a massive impact on games. The gaps are not there, as everyone has been slowed down by rain. Gaps often appear through the sleightofhand of players. But when it rains those hands can no longer work their magic.
Verdict: A selective mind can work in many ways. Flimsy.
Barrett could play poker with all the yellow cards he has picked up this year. Five in total, his latest coming against Argentina last week. Some of them are unlucky but he does tend to wander into silly positions when his team is on defence.
Quite a few of these have been team yellow cards to stop a try being scored.
Verdict: Needs to brush up on his behaviour and back the defensive systems of the team.
When was it important that a first fiveeighth had to tackle?
Noone wearing a jersey with the No 10 on it should be selected on his defensive ability.
Barrett was a turnstile a couple of years ago but has improved his tackling technique.
Verdict: No Trevor Gillmeister but does not need to be.
The Judge’s decision
Barrett is still the best first fiveeighth in the country. He had a dream year in 2016 but defences are better this season. Improved line speed from opponents is blunting Barrett’s impact on games and he is very much a marked man. He is not helped by some sloppy service inside him at times.
Barrett is still class if not, perhaps, in topdrawer form. But class is permanent.