One Out Of The Box
by Paul Waite
9 Nov 2003
Well now we know what’s inside the Black Box.
One of the most potent teams at this tournament, that’s what.
A lot of questions were answered in this entertaining quarter-final of running rugby, not least ones surrounding the All Black forwards who must now be enjoying the warm glow engendered by figuratively screwing up all the criticisms which have surfaced during the past week and ramming them home somewhere that the Sun doesn’t shine too much.
The comparison between the previous game against Wales and this performance was like comparing chalk with cheese. Gone was the soft defence, gone was the lack of support at the breakdown, back was the kind of running onto the ball which we’ve seen glimpses of in the Tri Nations.
This game was won where it always is – up front. By the last quarter the Springbok forwards were just hanging on, as evidenced by two huge scrums from the All Blacks one which disintegrated the Bok pack, and another which shunted them on their own line causing a turnover to create a try to Rokocoko. All of the Black Pack had huge games, but three stood out – Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Chris Jack. Over here in New Zealand we’ve believed McCaw if the premier No.7 in the World for some time, but in this game he extended the lead he has. Mealamu once again showed that magical trick he has of evading tackles and making ground, and was rewarded with a fine try. Chris Jack was just a dominating figure in the lineout and around the park.
Out in the backs Carlos Spencer stepped up as All Black fans had hoped he would. Spencer loves the big stage to strut his stuff, and he brought out quite a few tricks tonight. But it was his running which was back to it’s electric best, and added to the balance and vision offered by Mauger outside him, the South African defence was kept guessing for most of the game.
In the end the overall feeling is one of the Springboks being outclassed both up front and in the backs for the full 80 minutes. If anyone dared, they could probably point accusatory fingers at the way the All Blacks ‘blew’ chances in the first half by taking wrong options when they made break after break to come away with no points on the board. For most of the game South Africa were quite evidently struggling to contain their opponents, and on the basis of posession alone might have called a 20 point deficit at half time a fair one.
So, as always, the cliche “we have plenty to work on” can be used by the All Blacks as they prepare for the semi-final against Australia next week.
In the meantime though, the whole squad can deservedly feel they have restored the faith of their supporters in them.
Well done Black!