1. Another bizarre substitution last night when Patrick Tuipolutu went on for Jeremy Thrush (who had a storming game) for the last desperate 3 minutes to earn another test cap. During that time the All Black scrum was unceremoniously shunted off its own ball for a scrum turnover and conceded a lineout on its own throw which all but cost the game. This wasn’t Tuipolutu’s sole fault of course and we don’t mind giving new guys a taste of the action but sometimes these substitutions appear to defy belief dont they? Sam Cane was one who benefited from a half-decent hit-out and actually made an impact and came up trumps with 2 key plays at the end.
2. Bench selections are another delicate balancing act and this also almost cost New Zealand dearly last night. As soon as poor old Maa Nonu went off injured, our best player (Ben Smith) was shunted to 12 and the game was always going to be close after that given the re-shuffled nature of the backline. We here at Sportsfreak are a big favourites of specialists and you don’t get more of a specialist position in Rugby than number 12. This is why long term, the AB selectors are going to have to make a tough call as to whether they carry Dan Carter or Beauden Barrett in the reserves for the big games because they can’t carry both that’s for certain. SBW and Crotty will add to the complexity of the bench picture.
3. And on the topic of midfielders we think Crotty is going to have a way bigger influence over the next 12 months on this team than the guy who’s about to be given a free pass back into the side (as early as next week even) from the NRL. Crotty can do everything SBW does and more. Back from injury the next 2 tests away will be interesting tests of Crotty’s progress and last night really showed how much they missed his experience coming off the bench.
4. A lot of platitudes this week from Camp AB about the mutual respect between the 2 sides with the nice little tradition of the losing coach fetching the winner a Beer coming to light. There were also some nice platitudes pre-game about Bokke Centurion and Skipper Jean De Villiers. The unspoken in all of this of course is that this current AB side has scant/no regard for the Wallabies both on and off the field where Hansen has taken pleasure in taking numerous pot shots at Australia and their Coach Ewen McKenzie. There is clearly little love lost between either side both on and off the field unlike the NZ/SA relationship which appears very cordial at present.
5. Just while were on that, the post-game words and presentation for De Viliers and Bryan Habana oozed class and good sportsmanship from New Zealand (and is what separates Rugby from a number of other international sports) but you’d think that the All Blacks could have put a wee bit more thought into the gifts for the 2 legends rather than a couple of bottles of fizzy piss? It was almost like Steve Tew had sent his Secretary down to the Mill with the Company Visa Card for a couple of bottles of Champers at 5pm because he’d forgotten all about it. Nice idea guys but a wee bit more thought on the pressy next time ok?