Player Ratings: World class statement
OPINION: Reigning world champions New Zealand got their 2019 World Cup campaign underway on Saturday and we have the player ratings from their 23-13 win over arch-rivals South Africa.
Steve Hansen’s side have likely secured top spot in Pool B thanks to the result in Yokohama and with contests against Italy, Namibia and Canada to come, the All Blacks have conquered their biggest challenge until the knockout rounds.
- Barrett Barret – 7.5
Barrett was composed and reliable at the back in his relatively new role for the All Blacks, especially in the early phases of the game when South Africa brought plenty of pressure. He added incision as an attacking force as the game went on and helped facilitate much of his side’s offensive success, including George Bridge’s try.
- Sevu Reece – 7
Reece’s carrying was powerful throughout and his footwork and fends consistently required South Africa to commit two, three or even four defenders to stop him.
- Anton Lienert-Brown – 7.5
His slaloming and incisive carry set up Scott Barrett for New Zealand’s second try, which gave his side control of the game. He prospered with his ability to make the first defender miss.
- Ryan Crotty – 7
Where Kieran Read led the defensive line for the forwards, Crotty provided the same role in the midfield for the backs. His efficient one-on-one tackling helped prevent what could have been one or two South African scores early in the first half.
- George Bridge – 6.5
The wing’s try gave the All Blacks control over the game and he was strong in the air as he won contested balls and provided energy on the chase. His overall influence was limited by New Zealand’s tendency to move the ball to the right wing.
- Richie Mo’unga – 7
He had a few early struggles in the face of South Africa’s line speed, but as the game went on he diagnosed the threat and changed his approach, finding space with the boot and by playing deeper. It was his kick pass to Reece that set up the first try and gave New Zealand control of the game.
- Aaron Smith – 7
Like Mo’unga, Smith had some early issues with his accuracy and his distribution put New Zealand into some difficult spots. He grew into the game, though, and his tempo of play and work in support were key to switching the momentum in the All Blacks’ favour.
- Joe Moody – 6
Had a ding-dong battle with Frans Malherbe at the scrum that the Springbok may have just edged, although there was little between the pair. He was another part of the defensive effort that saw the All Blacks weather the early Springbok storm.
- Dane Coles – 5
He lost one of his three lineouts and was shaky on one of the two successful throws. Cole then unfortunately departed the pitch at half-time and wasn’t able to have his trademark influence in the loose either.
- Nepo Laulala – 6
Laulala had parity with the impressive Steven Kitshoff for most of their match up, although wasn’t quite able to offer the impact in the loose that Hansen would have liked.
- Sam Whitelock – 5.5
Not Whitelock’s most influential game. The lineout wasn’t too effective in the first half and his eagerness to fan out in the defensive line left a gap at the breakdown that Pieter-Steph du Toit exploited for his second half try.
- Scott Barrett – 8
A powerful carry from Eben Etzebeth aside, Barrett was one of the New Zealand forwards to consistently deliver physical success as a carrier and tackler on the gain line. His try was a result of his work rate as a support runner, too, in what was an impressive all-round performance in the absence of Brodie Retallick.
- Ardie Savea – 8.5
He helped deliver momentum for New Zealand when they most needed it. His footwork prior to contact and subsequent leg drives made him a nightmare for the Springboks to contain. He added his carrying threat to the scrum by switching over to No8 and was frequently on hand as a support option. He also won a couple of crucial turnovers in the second half when he moved over to the openside to fill in for Sam Cane.
- Sam Cane – 6.5
He got through a lot of defensive work in the first half and was a valuable contributor at the breakdown, delivering quick ball where possible for his side. Unfortunately left the game at half-time after taking a knock in the first 40 minutes.
- Kieran Read – 7.5
The No8 was pivotal for New Zealand early when they were under territorial pressure from South Africa. Read regularly led the defensive line among forwards and consistently went low, wrapping up and bringing down Springbok carriers before they broke the gain line. It was a role he reprised in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
- Codie Taylor – 6
He was largely accurate at the lineout, losing just one of his five throws, and he seemed to have a strong connection with Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu.
- Ofa Tuungafasi – 6
The loosehead came under real pressure from South Africa’s first string front row when he first arrived on the pitch, although he had more joy once the Springboks also made their front row replacements. Looked mobile and energetic in the loose.
- Angus Ta’avao – 5.5
Faced off against Kitshoff and then Tendai Mtawarira and didn’t have too much joy.
- Patrick Tuipulotu – 6
Added physicality after coming on at half-time and successfully took the ball the two times he was targeted at the lineout.
- Shannon Frizell – n/a
Came on too late to have a major impact on the game.
- TJ Perenara – 6
The scrum-half had a couple of clever kicks into space after replacing Smith. Kept the tempo up and the South African defence on alert.
- Sonny Bill Williams – 6.5
Replicated Crotty’s energy and efficiency in defence and the physicality of his tackling and breakdown work helped buy New Zealand a couple of key turnovers.
- Ben Smith – 6
The veteran had a couple of incisive breaks, although the game had transformed into New Zealand consolidating their lead rather than chasing scores by the time he arrived.
By Alex Shaw, Rugbypass