Sonny Bill’s fu­ture on the line

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT -

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.

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