By The Spotter
The All Blacks Bledisloe train may or may not be derailed this Saturday at Eden Park against the Wallabies. However I’m prepared to put my neck on the sportsfreak chopping block and predict Dan Carter will do well enough to silence the naysayers (but for who knows how long, god we’re a default-set bunch of nitpicking so-and-sos, aren’t we?) and bring a degree of confidence to most reasoned All Blacks supporters before our World Cup crusade is underway proper.
Yes the flyhalf master is now thirty-three and hasn’t been gracing the turf with his best form, but we, the couch potatoes and armchair All Blacks, have been spoilt by brilliant Dan’s feats for so long now that any wane in his form becomes the catalyst for growing cries of putting him on the pine or even ridiculously, out of the squad altogether.
Thirty-three is not exactly ancient and though the message may have become a bit hackneyed now, the adage ‘Form is temporary and class in permanent’ holds true almost without sway.
Carter’s play with Ma’a Nonu is a thing of magic in the backline. You don’t cast aside exceptional combinations like that easily. He’ll have Ma’a back with him on Saturday. Just watch what a changed player DC will be with the skilful Hurricanes force of nature alongside him. Last weekend in Sydney the Dan and Sonny-Bill combo just wasn’t a happening thing; and if we’re being honest it never really has been in the black jersey.
Best we mention Carter is (and still remains) the greatest goalkicker in the history of Rugby Union. I know who I want taking the kicks at goal in those tight knockout games come late World Cup time. And his tactical kicking will always be par excellence. Don’t let any fool tell you that he is on some irreversible slide in that department, either.
And I’ve listened to some say his tackling is suspect. What a load of rot. It makes you wonder if some people pay attention to anything. His tackling technique and durability on defence are among the best-ever for a flyhalf, and still are. Period. Not to mention we need his nous and massive experience in organising the defensive screens of the backline. Ok, he did miss a one-on-one against Folau last week but he won’t be the last good defender to do that and it certainly does not mean he has suddenly become a defensive liability. Plus the fact Folau is frequently freakish with ball in hand in any case.
I recall with much clarity Carter putting on a master-class away to France on the European tour at the end of 2009. It certainly ranks for me in his top three displays for the ABs. This performance was in the wake of some calls for his demotion (albeit they mostly came via some rabid talkback callers). DC fed those critics a large helping of humble pie on that occasion. I’m fervently hoping he will do the same to the knockers this Saturday.