Isn’t it great that we have an All Black coach with the balls to pick on current form irrespective of experience – even if it does mean dropping our best two outside backs? He pulled it off – on the biggest stage against the best opponent.
It was one of the great wins in All Black history for many reasons. In round one all eyes were on All Blacks vs Springbok. Five of the eight RWCs have been won by these two teams. I rate them first and second in the world. The loser will probably face Ireland, World Rugby’s current number one ranked team.
The ABs and the Bok have met three times leading into RWC Japan with honours shared evenly, including the points differential. Rassie Erasmus has a settled team, which traditionally has a consistency advantage. On the other hand, Hansen is promoting the performance of the full squad, not just the starting team.
Several All Black selection choices seemed to challenge logic. The Springbok have a propensity to kick high from phase play, putting pressure on the aerial game of the opposition back three. It has worked well for them. Despite this, Hansen and co left out the best two exponents of turning the high ball from defence to attack – Ben Smith and Jordy Barrett. They also chose to replace leading try scorer Rieko Ioane with two new boys on the block. While their inexperience was exposed by the Bok in the first quarter the squad pulled through this onslaught, scored two outstanding tries and continued to grow as a unit, claiming an outstanding victory.
These two teams could well contest the final.