Speed­sters burn the Boks

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - Mark Rea­son

Steve Hansen’s new back three were forked light­ning, scorch­ing the earth and send­ing the Spring­boks up in flames. Ev­ery time South africa made a mis­take, and they made plenty, they were burned. The one thing that ev­ery team in the world finds hard to de­fend against is pace and this is one of the fastest All Blacks sides in his­tory.

Be­fore the game Hansen was asked how his team would cope if the Boks came with a rush de­fence. He smiled with a cer­tain self dep­re­ca­tion and said, ‘‘They’ll have to deal with ours as well. We’re not the only ones who strug­gle with it.’’

No truer word was spo­ken. South Africa had no idea how to cope with New Zealand’s line speed in de­fence. When they coughed up pos­ses­sion, the Boks then lacked the nous and the all round speed to scram­ble back.

The first try came when South Africa turned over the ball and a penalty. Quick as a flash, and he had a pretty flash night, Aaron Smith lobbed a left foot kick in be­hind. Smith didn’t even have to be that ac­cu­rate. Rieko Ioane was the man who scored close to the touch­line, but if Smith’s kick had strayed in­field a bit, then Damian McKen­zie would have got to it.

Hansen did get one thing wrong when he pre­dicted; ‘‘I’m sure they’ll want to kick a bit of ball in the air with the small back three we’ve got, but I’m con­fi­dent they’ll take the high ball and give us op­por­tu­ni­ties to counter and cause a bit of trou­ble.’’

In fact Mcken­zie and Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der each bombed a high kick early on. That re­mains a worry when the All Blacks come up against bet­ter teams. A week ago McKen­zie made some of his own prob­lems by try­ing to field kicks too far up the pitch, but he won’t be proud of the one he grassed against South Africa.

But strangely this back three don’t seem to be both­ered by the odd blun­der. Maybe it helps when the aver­age age is 23. No sooner had Mil­ner-Skud­der dropped the ball, than he was up the other end of the pitch scor­ing. Again it was rush de­fence. A lit­tle ear­lier Ioane had come in off his wing and jammed Jesse Kriel. Now Mil­nerSkud­der stepped in and made the in­ter­cep­tion.

He was run down by Court­nall Skosan but made the pass to Beau­den Bar­rett who was up in sup­port. Bar­rett would have made the line him­self if he had gone with gas straight to the out­side. But who cares, when the al­ter­na­tive was a cheeky flick out the back to Mil­ner-Skud­der for the try?

Ad­mit­tedly South Africa were a rab­ble. Why on earth they didn’t em­ploy a rush de­fence when they have seen how the All Blacks have strug­gled is any­one’s guess. But Bar­rett didn’t mind. He had all the time in the world to em­bar­rass South Africa’s wide de­fence with a cross kick.

It is com­ing to some­thing when a back is beaten in the air by a hooker. The con­trast between the back three of the two teams could scarcely have been greater. Did An­dries Coet­zee make a tackle. Ho hum, another lovely flick from Mil­ner-Skud­der put in Scott Bar­rett for a try.

McKen­zie’s kick­ing game off ei­ther foot was top class and gave the All Blacks some field po­si­tion that they don’t al­ways get from their prin­ci­pal play­mak­ers, but on this night the 20-year-old Ioane was the ter­ror of the Boks.

Ioane made a fool of Ray­mond Rhule, who had no idea how to de­fend him. Ioane went round him, over him and in­side him. Ioane could prob­a­bly have even hur­dled Rhule if it had taken his fancy. In set­ting up Brodie Re­tal­lick’s try he left four Boks on the floor.

Just a note to the selec­tors. Ioane is a wing and Mcken­zie is a full back. They are New Zealand rugby’s scorched earth pol­icy. They are the fu­ture. And the fu­ture is fast.

GETTY IM­AGES

Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der scores a try against the hap­less Spring­boks as the All Blacks re­write the record books.

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