Dan Carter Show: Episode 2
by Paul Waite
23 Jul 2006
Dan the Man did it again with another imperious display at The Caketin. First the Lions last year, now the Boks have had points piled up against them by the Carter Machine.
Apart from amassing 25 points from his boot, the coup de grace was a brilliant chip and regather down the left touchline before in-passing to set up Richie McCaw’s fine try which sealed the test.
But it wasn’t all tea and biccies, oh no. The performance was what could be termed “flawed” or “scratchy”. There were several aspects to the test from the All Black point of view which will be concerning them.
First of all the lineout was a poor effort all-round. Throws were mis-directed, or challenged and lost, and those lineouts which were secured were mostly by the skin of the teeth in the face of very tough challenges from Matfield & Co.
Conversely on the Springbok lineout the All Blacks lined up like a bunch of shop-window dummies, seemingly transfixed by the aerial majesty of their opponents’ work. Nary a challenge went in, and the odd one that did came nowhere near being noticed by the soaring men in green. It was a pathetic, embarassing spectacle.
The second blight on the game from the All Blacks standpoint was their defence of the maul, even when not contesting the lineout prior to it. Body positioning, numbering up and general nouse and application in this area was a shambles on all but one occasion, when the Boks shaped to drive from a 5m lineout. On this occasion they got it right and drove the enemy back – so what’s the Big Deal with doing it on all occasions. Pass, as they say.
Other negatives were generally attributable to either poor form, in the shape of a less than useless Doug Howlett who couldn’t do a thing right, or lack of combination due to the mix ‘n match selection policy. One try was effectively ‘blown’ by Mils Muliaina down the left when he threw a forward pass to an overlap of two when under no pressure. Obviously a slip and nothing more, but uncharacteristic of him.
Actually, on reflection, most of the negatives mentioned can probably be put down to lack of time together for whatever combination Henry & Co. have picked for this week. Although the depth this approach is building is impressive, a better idea from now on might be to stabilize selections in certain areas, such as the tight-five, so that set-pieces like the lineout can be given the kind of practice they need. If not the whole T5, then maybe just hooker/locks combinations or something.
Positives came from the test as well. A number of players had very good outings aside from the already-lauded Carter. At halfback Weepu was his usual combative self, giving much more than he got, and scoring a great scoop-up and dive-over try when it looked like we’d blown it at the last 5m of a sweeping attack down the left in the first half. Late in the game when he went off, Cowan came on and performed very well too, his quicker delivery giving the All Blacks more time out wide against the rush defence.
In the centres, Tuitupou had a shaky start, making some defensive blunders, but came back strongly and looks like a great back-up to Aaron Mauger. Mils Muliaina had another strong game at centre and was a constant threat on attack.
Finally in the backs Hamilton had a good outing on the left wing and didn’t really put a foot wrong, his vision in reading the game making sure that he was always positioned well on defence, and working in well with the attack.
In the forwards Richie McCaw led by example, and was well supported by Rueben Thorne who was prominent on both attack and defence and got through a power of work. So’oialo was his usual busy and bruising dynamo self. In the front row Tialata proved he can foot it at the top at loose-head and was part of an impressive scrummaging effort which had the advantage of the heavier Bok pack.
Finally, a prize of a tea-cosy, (hand-knitted in merino wool by Mrs. Edna Previous of Eketahuna) is awarded for Worst Hairstyle Of The Week to the Springboks’ own Breyton Paulse, who has contrived to make himself look like a Michael Jackson in his Jackson Five years.