It’s tough to watch the All Blacks these days. Even harder if you are a die-hard fan. It’s not often the Springboks win back-to-back – in fact this is the first time the Springboks have defeated the All Blacks in 33 years.
The forwards look ok. The backs look like they are in disarray. The players that once had impact, have little. Those that were reliable look barely interested in the fundamentals of the game. Kick when you should kick. Run when you should run. Score tries when you should score tries. And they seem keen, at every opportunity, to show teams like South Africa such disrespect as to engage in a version of basketball when on defense.
You have to wonder what the coaches are thinking and doing. Fundamentals are absent. We aren’t just talking little mistakes. We are talking a 50/50 ability to catch a high ball. A less than odds chance they will catch a line-out. Certain indiscipline when under pressure.
But that’s the easy route to go. The harder route is to question why such talented players are unable to execute the basics? Admittedly, TV obscures the weather and conditions. Every game looks like it is played in equal conditions. They aren’t. Surely these players are accustomed to that?
NZ Rugby is entering a deep period of questioning and inspection. And so it should. We simply no longer have the depth we once had. Our impact players of 2 years ago are without impact – and there is no talent lining up behind them. Or if they are, they aren’t making it to the field fast enough.
The deeper and ever present question will be: do we have the management and coaches to unleash our talent? This is the an All Blacks team without focus. Without a game plan. Without a clear edge. And all three start off the field.
It’s going to be a very tough year to be an All Blacks fan. Unless fundamental changes are made in strategy and approach, it will be like this through next season and into the World Cup.
Perhaps then only consolation is that we have time to sort this out. The question is whether a coaching staff so inclined not to take advantage of opportunity – favoring instead bizarre rotations and player selections — will take advantage of it.
This die-hard fan hasn’t lost faith in the players. But it’s hard to keep faith in the leadership.