KIWI VIEW: All Blacks don't have the players to be great again
OPINION: We wouldn’t pick Trevor Nyakane or Frans Malherbe for the All Blacks.
Heck, we might not even give them a game in Super Rugby.
Not fast enough over 40 metres. Can’t step, can’t fend, can’t spiral pass 30 metres off both hands.
Their skinfolds are no good, there’s no kicking game. They can’t even dunk a basketball, on the occasions when the boys are playing a pickup game.
Never mind that Nyakane and Malherbe win you Test matches. Forget the way they demolished the All Blacks scrum at Mbombela.
Neither of them are athletic enough to make a New Zealand team.
I’m bored of Ian Foster now, bored of Sam Cane and bored of the All Blacks too.
I don’t doubt that they’re all trying or that they’re hurt and desperate to revive the team’s flagging fortunes.
But as I cast my eye at the All Blacks and at Super Rugby and the NPC, I just don’t think we’ve got the cattle to win proper Test match rugby.
Not like South Africa or Ireland or France. Maybe not even England, Wales or Argentina, the way things appear right now.
We should be right against Australia, because they value the same junk in players that we do.
It doesn’t matter who Foster picks to meet the Springboks at Ellis Park this weekend. It doesn’t even matter if the All Blacks upset the formbook and win.
New Zealand, from what I can see at primary and intermediate school, 1st XV, club, provincial and Super Rugby level, have prioritised and promoted all the wrong things.
The All Blacks started their best available XV at Mbombela – backed by one of the weakest benches I’ve ever seen – and got done. The final score of 26-10 doesn’t begin to demonstrate how ineffectual the All Blacks were in that match.
We simply do not have the players to compete with test rugby’s big boys, let alone beat them on a regular basis. And, frankly, we might as well get used to it.
There is nothing – and I mean nothing – in the cupboard to suggest we’ll be any better at the 2027 Rugby World Cup, than it looks as though we’ll be in 2023.
We can’t even find a head coach or nominate a worthwhile replacement for the one we’ve got, so the cupboard’s bare there too.
Would Scott Roberston do better than Foster? Of course he would, but only to a point.
We don’t have a Nyakane or a Malherbe and we sure as eggs don’t have a Malcolm Marx.
And, in part, that’s because we value all the wrong things.
We definitely wouldn’t pick Kwagga Smith, but we might even turn our nose up at Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese, Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, because we fundamentally believe that brilliance is best, that style is worth more than substance.
Well, how’s that working out for us?
The system is broken and, admire Foster or not, he’s the one carrying the can, along with Cane.
Cosmetic changes to the All Blacks’ squad could be made, but the fundamental issue is we are weak in the set pieces and weak at the breakdown.
We view things, such as the scrum, as a mechanism to restart play. We’d honestly play Golden Oldies if we could.
Only, this ain’t Rugby League. This ain’t about big ball-carriers, with an offload and a bit of speed off the mark.
In real rugby, scrums are a way to generate points and momentum and to stop the opposition from accumulating either.
Nine scrums out of 10 against the All Blacks, you’ll win a penalty. Let’s say half of those are in kicking range, so that’s 15 points, and you’re halfway to victory.
That cannot be turned around overnight and maybe not in five or 10 years’ time either.
The All Blacks are getting absolutely pumped up front and now matter how well they tackle or how well they combat the rolling maul, they are unable to generate any attack of their own.
Sure, Beauden Barrett looks bad right now. But who in the backs doesn’t?
We have abandoned forward play and favoured athletes over actual rugby players to the point where we are becoming an international also-ran.
Blame whoever you like. Blame Foster or Steve Hansen or Graham Henry or whichever coach you can name, but it’s the system that’s broken.
It’s those charged with protecting the game and providing the pathway who’ve let us down.
We’ve laughed and scoffed at those from overseas who said Super Rugby wasn’t real footy.
Who said it was entertaining and often brilliant, but a million miles away from real test match rugby.
Well, who’s laughing now? Not us.
From Under-10s, all the way through to the All Blacks, we just give the ball to the big kid or the fast kid and hope for the best, and we have nothing to fall back on when that doesn’t work.
Every Test team knows where the All Blacks can be beaten now and an increasing number have the confidence to do it too.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better, because we’ve simply stopped trying to produce proper Test match forwards.
By Hamish Bidwell, @RugbyPass
Photo credit: Johan Orton