Back in the day when men were men and life was perfect, an All Black Test victory guaranteed reselection for the next game. It was a bit like a salute; a slap on the back; a ‘well done’ chaps. A good victory and you were in the team next week. Along with the all night after-match-function, it was the bonus. Everything was OK in the world.
‘Party up; forget the fatigue - the injuries and the rehydration; just do what you like, you have the keys to the city.’ The call was, ‘Spread out and stick together’. The media understood this and, as long as nobody was arrested and there was no publicity, everyone, including the journos, (who were often part of the antics the night before) were happy.
But no longer is All Black reselection, a right.
A new dawn has arrived. In the last three tests there have been 6 changes in each one; no after-match-party and certainly no ‘visits’ to Airport toilets…
The reality is, there are 34 players in the All Black squad for The Rugby Championship, and any one of these can be picked; depending on their ever-changing form, injuries, fatigue or team experimentation. There is no longer a preferred All Black Team. It’s now, horses for courses. To play Argentina, a 23-man squad has been named, and let’s face it - they will all play. Even if it is for just a few minutes.
When I analyse the starting 15, I see there are only two experienced forwards; two experienced backs and two veterans on the bench. Playing Argentina in Buenos Aries will be a baptism of fire for many in this group. Similar to how it was for some of the Springbok Team here in NZ a couple of weeks ago. I was stunned to hear half of the Bok XV had not faced a Haka before… and they played like it. I don’t, of course, expect the same result – but I do anticipate a very tight match.
The Wallabies are in Bloemfontein against the Springboks, who no doubt are still smarting from the hiding the ABs gave them. By South African standards, the Aussies are city boys and will be out of their comfort zone, big time. Good luck fellows. On and off the field you are in for a physical explosion. I’m picking the Boks to win this one. That doesn’t mean this new look team is any good. It simply means the Boks will want the win more than the Wallabies. Invariably, the team that wants it most, gets it.
- Murray Mexted, IRANZ Managing Director