All Blacks are 'rugby's Barcelona, with muscle'

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    18 Sep 2017     Getty Images

"In recent matches New Zealand have tampered with their match tactics and their personnel but against the Springboks the decision to switch to flat-out mode was too much for coach Steve Hansen.


"It was also overwhelmingly too much for the Springboks, who seemed an improved team until this black day in South African rugby history. The All Blacks bewildered them.

"Nehe Milner-Skudder's first try was the quintessential moment of magic, a black magic which would destroy any team in the world. This was Beauden Barrett in un-stuttering mode.

"Milner-Skudder intercepted and raced 50 metres to the opposing 22. What transpired then was something quite special. The Springboks were hunting the All Black wing down, and he passed outside to Barrett. The fly-half, sprinting infield, drew the entire Springbok cover and then flipped the most exquisite pass — left-handed — behind his back. South Africa went one way, Milner-Skudder went the other.

"… This was no showman's try but the sort of trick that can only be perfected with vast amounts of practice," he said.
Barnes said it was futile to try to differentiate between poetry and prose in relation to the magical play of the side, but he felt there would not be a 'more seductive pass' all season.

While there were other fine tries that one of Milner-Skudder's had 'combined the myth and reality of New Zealand all in one consummate reverse flip of the ball', Barnes said.

"Yesterday took me back to the most brilliant days of Barcelona when Lionel Messi and his friends played a one-touch, constantly moving, diamond-shaped game. At their best New Zealand are rugby's Barcelona with muscle. Yesterday they were as near to their best as they are likely to get. It was manufactured by the management, it was magicked into eight tries by the players. Memorable," he said.

Respected South African critic Gavin Rich said in his column that seven minutes in the first made all the difference to the outcome.

"Those seven minutes was the period that separated the Beauden Barrett penalty that made it 3-0 and the second try that took the All Blacks to 17-0. The first try was the product of some audacious quick thinking from Aaron Smith, who put in the grubber from a quick tap that Rieko Ioane chased down, and the second was scored off an intercept. An intercept is always a lucky score.

"The Bok chances of being competitive depended on a strong start and it is universally accepted that if you go behind early against the Kiwis you are dead in the water. Much of what happened after that, when the Boks really lost it and became progressively worse, needs to be seen in that context," he said.

Rob Houwing,'s chief writer was critical of the lack of size in South Africa's back three.

"That's why for every Damian McKenzie in an All Black back three, there is also an explosive powerhouse Rieko Ioane, whilst a reasonably pencil-like wizard named Beauden Barrett at No 10 benefits hugely from having a tall, near-110kg Sonny Bill Williams immediately outside him.

"New Zealand royally bossed collisions both at close quarters and in wider areas of North Harbour Stadium, and it was almost unedifying watching the universally quite diminutive Bok backs clinging like tenacious leeches to various rampaging All Blacks, or simply grateful to get someone to ground at the ankles (even as that only makes off-loading to a supporting runner so much easier)," he said.

Former British & Irish Lions, and England coach, and player, Sir Clive Woodward said in the Daily Mail: "There was so much to admire about New Zealand's superb 57-0 demolition of South Africa on Saturday but what I enjoyed most was the complete lack of box kicking from Aaron Smith at scrum-half for the All Blacks. A curse on box kicking.

"A scrum-half's primary skill is always passing and Smith does that gloriously for the All Blacks and sets the tempo for the whole team.

"And because he now never considers the box kick, the All Blacks' speed of play is dictate by his quickness of delivery from a ruck or maul.

"That sees New Zealand play at an incredible tempo, a tempo that no other team can live with currently.

"Matching the speed of New Zealand's play for 80 minutes is still going to be the biggest challenge for England and everybody else if they are going to seriously challenge New Zealand at the World Cup," he said.