Rules there for a reason, Sonny Bill
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.