Sonny Bill’s future on the line
game was also astute and accurate and set up a try for George Bridge. Perhaps less noticed than Laumape, (although not by the All Blacks’ coaches), Proctor was also quite excellent and did all the things that make him so important to the Canes.
Just about the only mistake Laumape made in the match came at the end of the game. Jordie Barrett went into first receiver off a scrum. He did not confuse the defence and his flat, but accurate pass to Laumape, was easily read. So Laumape was trying to catch a ball arriving at pace and evade a Japanese defender arriving at pace. He dropped it. It was interesting to note how similar Jordie’s body shape as he passed was to his brothers.
The Barretts do not always make it easy for those outside. They have remarkable talents, but all the subtleties of the pass are not among them. The variation in depth and line of run, the body shape on the line, faking with eyes and shoulders, the sympathetic pace on the pass, and the perfection of timing. This is where Mo’unga is supreme, not just in New Zealand, but in the world.
We saw it in the merest cameo at the end of that third Bledisloe Cup game against Australia. Mo’unga came flat and narrow off a scrum, with SBW running a decoy. The Aussie defence was fooled, Ben Smith supported and Beauden’s exquisite tunnel pass put Rieko Ioane in at the corner.
But it all started with Mo’unga’s angle and timing. Suddenly SBW was a threat again.
There is no doubt Sonny Bill misses the guidance of former backs coach Wayne Smith, with whom he had a close and respectful relationship.
But he also misses the finesse with which Carter or Cruden could set him up to do the things he is so good at.
We may see sparks of that outside Barrett. We may even see a more spectacular conflagration against England’s wonky defence. But until we see SBW outside Mo’unga against top opposition, we will not know the full extent of what he is still capable of.
Why do we have to be patient with SBW? Is he a special case? When does patience run out?
Sonny Bill Williams no longer has a mortgage on a midfield berth in the All Blacks.