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