All Blacks: Plenty of Positives in Crushing Win over Springboks
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The All Blacks were far too good for the Springboks in their Tri-Nations opener, beating the men from South Africa 40-7 in a commanding performance in Wellington last night.
They looked a completely different team to the one who took the field against Fiji just one week ago, bringing a whole new level of intensity to the game that was unmatched by their opposition.
Right from the word go the All Blacks looked to attack, and were rewarded scoring two early tries, to go with an early penalty, taking them out to a 13-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes. It seemed as though they were going to run away with the game from here, but the Springboks rallied and found some fight to score a try of their own.
But the All Blacks had the final say before half time, as a superb effort from Cory Jane took the score to 18-7.
The second half saw the All Blacks completely dominate every facet of the game, scoring another 22 points, including three tries, to take the final score to 40-7.
A very pleasing result if you're a New Zealander and a slightly worrying one for a South African.
Never have the All Blacks been so dominant over their arch-rivals, even the stellar performances of 2010 didn't match the dominance the All Blacks held last night.
The dominance started up front where the set-piece was outstanding, which translated into dominance at the breakdown, seeing the Springboks got little good ball to work with.
The front row was key in this, asserting a dominance like few have ever done on the Springbok scrum, while also doing plenty around the field, playing like loose-forwards almost.
In the loose they were very good, with Jerome Kaino in particular standing out, tackling ferociously and bringing a physicality to the game that only he can.
The backline looked well-polished and threatened every time they had the ball.
Jimmy Cowan and Dan Carter directed play well, while Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith were dangerous outside them and showed why they are the two best midfielders in New Zealand.
The back three were all dangerous on the counter attack and all looked for work. While there seems to be a log jam for the five outside back spots, it would be hard to leave out any of the men who took the field last night. Not just because of how they played last night, but because they have proved they can play well at this level numerous times and are all fit the All Blacks game plan well.
The other positive for the All Blacks came in back-up first five-eighth Colin Slade making a successful cameo appearance in the last 10 minutes. While it is hard to read too much into a game like this, Slade was very tidy and posed a threat when he decided to run.
It was truly a brilliant all round performance.
However, there were still two players whose selection in the team could be queried after less than impressive performances last night. These being Ali Williams and Sonny Bill Williams.
Both men have been hyped by many, but both failed to deliver last night.
Ali Williams roamed wide too much, not committing himself to doing the dirty-work enough as tight forwards need to. His kick-offs were also very poor, failing to secure the ball multiple times. He was good at lineout time, but needs to improve his all round game if he is to feature at the World Cup.
Sonny Bill Williams meanwhile was anonymous for most of the time while he was on the field. He is still yet to prove that he can cut it at this level and went into the same shell as he always seems to when it comes to playing top opposition.
This isn't to say that these two won't feature come September, just that they still have something to prove and must play well in the next three games should they want to be there.
But overall, the All Blacks will be happy with what they accomplished in Wellington.
The real test now comes next week, as they take on an Australian side who also dealt to this Springbok team. While they will enter the game favourites, it will take an effort similar to that of last night if they are to turn out winners in Auckland.
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