The post mortems have been written and the national state of emergency declared. The All Blacks have lost two test matches in a row.
Our main source of incredulity should possibly focus on the fact we contrived to lose to a team which hadn’t played a match for 402 days.
The lack of discipline has been really surprising. And even though our men in black have the best overall ball skills in the game, we don’t offer enough variation on attack. We’ve become way too predictable- if our attack strategy were a Log-in password, the opposition would have it cracked within five minutes.
More worringly even, we are devoid of a Plan B. This was laid badly bare in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against England. This would involve bringing some subtleties into our game, such as some judicious chip kicking- but right time and place and only with front foot ball. It wouldn’t include boasts like ‘We’ll always back ourselves to chip kick from even behind our goal-line.’
We’re lacking in Rugby IQ as well. Dumb macho posturing led to a loss of concentration against the Pumas. The Argentinians love a bit of scrap and niggle. It’s in their DNA. It’s been noticeable that the more other countries figure out and negate the way we play and decide to take us on physically with no backward step, so our frustration with not being able to dominate like before is growing. This is a phenomenon we haven’t yet seen in this generation of All Black teams.
Argentina have always been talented. Now they have self-belief, and size. Watch out world. Ex-Wallabies coach Michael Chieka looks like an inspired appointment. Being an assistant seems to suit him; he looks very calm. It certainly doesn’t look like he’ll suddenly head butt the desk and gesticulate towards the field like a serial Road Rager anymore. With Mario Lendesma as Head Coach and Chieka next to him, it means two front rowers calling the shots. The Puma forwards are bound to get even better.
In relation to the All Blacks, does this defeat mean Ian Foster should be taking his pink slip? No. Because any team, no matter who, will occasionally throw in a stinker. And Argentina just did everything better. It’s really that simple. As well, the first season with a new person in charge can often bring a hiccup or two. The worst thing the media could probably do for the next two weeks is grill the poor guy to a cinder. He surely needs a bit of leeway to clear his head and work a few things out.
On the positive, the Pumas beating the All Blacks was great for world rugby. It will likely also be the wake-up call we need to change a few things. Ultimately the loss could do us a lot more good than harm. But change requires a bit of bravery and soul-searching. it will be interesting to see if this All Blacks group has that or not.