Rules there for a rea­son, Sonny Bill

OPIN­ION

South Waikato News - - SPORT - By TAINE RAN­DELL

On merit, his­tory sug­gests Sonny Bill Wil­liams will play sec­ond fid­dle to Ma’a Nonu again. The only time Wil­liams gen­uinely cracked the All Blacks was when Nonu had a wretched run with in­jury. He was No 1 by de­fault. At the last World Cup he was a bit-part player at best.

In terms of the ex­emp­tion he was granted to be picked for the end of year tour with­out hav­ing to play in the NPC for Coun­ties Manukau, I’m not in favour of it.

You have rules for a rea­son. For the New Zealand Rugby Union it cre­ates a grey area, which makes it hard when you’re deal­ing with the next per­son. Why have the has­sle?

It also cre­ates an obli­ga­tion to play him, even if he doesn’t live up to the hype.

Rugby is a lot more sub­tle game than league and some of the nu­ances will have moved on a tad.

Let’s hope Wil­liams is go­ing to be fan­tas­tic but it’s hard to see him get­ting past Nonu. He’s just been that good over the past decade and his com­bi­na­tion with Con­rad Smith is in­valu­able.

Mov­ing on to the Spring­boks, they have been very low pro­file.

They had an av­er­age se­ries against the Welsh in June and prob­a­bly should have lost at least one of those tests.

They’ve been pretty unin­spir­ing against Ar­gentina so they’ll come in rel­a­tively un­her­alded against the All Blacks.

There’s not a lot of fizz or ex­pec­ta­tions about the Boks this year.

In the test at El­lis Park the All Blacks, with­out a shadow of a doubt, con­firmed them­selves as the best side in the world.

The Spring­boks were up for that test – they had a lot of ex­pec­ta­tion – but the All Blacks went to another level and rose to the oc­ca­sion.

This year feels dif­fer­ent, more as though there is hope rather than ex­pec­ta­tion when it comes to the Boks. Quite pos­si­bly that makes the Boks more dan­ger­ous.

For­mer South African cap­tain John Smit said last week that Boks must beat the All Blacks at least once this year to have any chance at next year’s World Cup. I dis­agree – two or three months can be a long time in rugby.

For the Spring­boks as­pi­ra­tions at the World Cup it is not cru­cial that they beat the All Blacks this year. Cer­tainly next year is a dif­fer­ent story.

The Boks haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 2011. That’s a long time. You can only as­sume, given how well the All Blacks played last week, and how com­par­a­tively poorly the Boks have been trav­el­ling, that the test in Wellington will be a com­fort­able vic­tory for Steve Hansen’s men.

His­tor­i­cally, the Spring­boks locks have been colos­sal. Bakkies Botha, Flip van der Merwe, Kobus Wiese and Vic­tor Mat­field is back for this tour.

In New Zealand open­side is our iconic po­si­tion – think Richie McCaw and Michael Jones. In Eng­land first five-eighth is their equiv­a­lent. In South Africa the lock is their na­tional po­si­tion of im­por­tance. That’s where they’ve usu­ally had an ad­van­tage.

How­ever, with Brodie Re­tal­lick and Sam White­lock, they are the best lock­ing part­ner­ship in the world. Those two guys es­pe­cially give me great con­fi­dence we will do very well against the Spring­boks. It’s not of­ten the All Blacks have the best lock­ing part­ner­ship in the world. Here we can at­tack the Boks’ strength.

The Boks are at their best when they are one-di­men­sional. They pick a big, strong mid­field with not a lot of sub­tlety.

It’s been shown over the last decade when they de­vi­ate from that game plan they are not as suc­cess­ful. There’s no se­cret – the All Blacks have to mus­cle up and where pos­si­ble use the ball like only they can.

Hav­ing played with a num­ber of South Africans, while they come across as straight laced they are emo­tional peo­ple. When you play them at home in front of their own peo­ple, they grow an arm and a leg.

Taine Ran­dell is a for­mer All Blacks cap­tain.

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