By The Spotter
If all goes according to script and ‘The Incredibles’ get their world record over the team with the bombastic head coach, the lion’s share of the kudos should be given to the long-serving coaching triumvirate of Steve Hansen, Wayne Smith and Mike Cron (all Cantabs, yes, I know).
That continuity has surely been the foundation on which all this talent has grown up on. Another reason that trio deserve five-star accolades is because they have kept the All Blacks running like a high performance engine right through all the plethora of law changes over the past several years. It’s like the race rules and specifications kept being altered but that final performance always endured- a perfect nod to adaptability, durability and absolute cleverness.
Steve Hansen- the great gruff one- must surely now be ranked as one of New Zealand Rugby’s greatest-ever coaches/visionaries/talent spotters-selectors. Certainly at least right up there alongside men like Otago’s Vic Cavanagh, Taranaki’s J.J. Stewart, Manawatu’s Jack Gleeson, Auckland’s John Hart (and before you lambast me, let me say ‘John Kirwan’- straight from third grade club level to provincial Rugby and the great Michael Jones, chosen before barely a game with the Auckland Colts. And no small matter of the revolutionary Auckland provincial side of 1984- 70 tries and an average of 43 points per match over 10 games in that NPC season, outrageous and unheard of previously). And of course the one and only Fred ‘The Needle’ Allen, the only undefeated coach in our history to have been there for a significant number of Tests. In addition, in that era there were no ‘easy’ games against minor Rugby nations.
Rightly, Allen’s 1967 team (as was pointed out in ‘The Streak’) stand right at the top of the pedestal alongside teams like the current vintage, the 1905-06 Originals, the 1924 Invinicibles, the 1987-88 World Cup winners and the 1996 ‘Incomparables’ and last year’s World Cup winners, as our greatest ever.
And from that team emerged one of the most unassuming, proud, just downright uncomplicated All Blacks to have ever donned the black jersey with the silver fern on the left breast, Brian Leo ‘Jazz’ Muller’, All Black number 656, staunchly of Eltham in the Taranaki. With Jazz Muller it is always a case of why say a whole lot when just a word or two will do. Keith Quinn and his crew could attest to that when they went to interview Jazz for an interview for the seminal ‘Legends of the All Blacks’ series, made in 1999. Muller’s 1967 teammate, Earl Kirton precedes that visit with a great touring yarn about the prop.
For correspondence, Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org