Thrashing of Springboks highlight

All Black wing Rieko Ioane scores against Wales on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
All Black wing Rieko Ioane scores against Wales on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
The All Black season has come to an end. It was not vintage but was better than average with 11 victories, two losses and a draw. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn looks back at the season.

Best performance

v Springboks, Albany 57-0

The opposition was a rabble that night - tackling was optional from the Boks and their defence was about as connected and streamlined as a Stevie Nicks story.

The All Blacks, though, were on fire. It was one of those games in which everything attempted came off. Some great tries all on the back of a very determined forward effort.

Best players

Winger Rieko Ioane: Just kept getting better, running around and over people. Could smell an opportunity from a mile away and his lightning pace and strength is a dangerous combination on the wing. How long before he moves to centre?

First five-eighth Beauden Barrett: Still a class player who used his speed to create space for others. Goal-kicking was not as bad as made out. A bit of a flake on defence at times.

Lock Sam Whitelock: Turned up week in, week out and put in a quality shift. Won his lineout ball and made his tackles. With Brodie Retallick he forms best locking partnership going around by some metres.

Best newcomer

The All Blacks used 55 players this year which is plenty even in these days of inflated squads and constant substitutions.

Rieko Ioane was obviously pretty good but he was around last year - perhaps prop Nepo Laulala who easily took the spot of the injured Owen Franks. Top marks for Kane Hames who improved as the season went on.

Worst performance

The 23-18 loss in Brisbane was perhaps the most gutting of the season as the side played some sloppy stuff against an Australian team which was good but limited. It did not adjust to the wet conditions and too many players were off their game.

Overhyped

Such is the way of the world these days that anyone who comes along and does an all right job is instantly the next big thing. No-one can arrive quietly and just be lightly praised.

Vaea Fifita made a couple of memorable runs against Argentina but there are doubts about his ability in the core roles.

TJ Perenara still needs to transfer his Super Rugby form up into tests.

Needs to improve

If Scott Barrett was called Scott Bartlett would he still be in the All Black picture? Hits a few rucks but hard to see the difference between him and about 10 other locks around the country.

Ardie Savea has plateaued and Sam Cane saw him off easily. Savea may need to reinvent himself as a No 8.

Three questions

Is this the end of Jerome Kaino? Coming up 35 next year, can his body still take all the hits and bashes of the modern game? He was substituted early on in the test in Wellington and never got back in the mix.

Did anyone do enough at fullback to usurp the resting Ben Smith? Not really. Israel Dagg got injured and Damian McKenzie was lively but was a tad too flighty.

Why did the All Blacks not play a Lions test under cover in Dunedin? During one of the wettest winters for some time surely playing under the roof would have given the All Blacks a big advantage and victory in the series?

Oh, right, we forgot tours are about how much accommodation is available for visiting fans from the other side of the world. It's not about giving as much advantage as possible to the home team. Perhaps we should get a few Peruvian football administrators involved at New Zealand Rugby headquarters.

 

Comments

Agree. It was a 7 out of 10 season for me. The politics around the Lions series only having two games in the south island (and no test) was disappointing and devalued the series for me. Dunedin successfully hosted two big world cup clashes in 2011 and the visiting fans were accommodated in and around Dunedin OK.