All Blacks-O-Meter: Chiefs and Crusaders surge puts World Champions in good space

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James Mortimer     27 Mar 2013     Getty Images

One of the New Zealand Conference sides could be among favourites for the title, it looks as if head coach Steve Hansen’s first year tendency to pick some new faces could continue with the local production line humming, while there is nothing to suggest that last year’s class of All Blacks will roll over into this season.

There are of course some notable examples, with perhaps Julian Savea shining out beyond them all.

The young Hurricanes back hasn’t just appeared to develop his game, but seems to be developing into a mighty amalgamation if the blueprint power wing and the of late preferred multi-talented wingman that can operate as a pseudo-fullback.

The Crusaders mettle will be tested without Kieran Read and Dan Carter in South Africa, both of who have showed their brilliance so far this campaign, while much of the Blues revival so far this year has come from the leadership applied by Ali Williams and Piri Weepu.

So to say that few All Blacks who played in 2012 would be selected now would be most untrue.

Away from the selection table Hansen and the All Blacks management, assistant coaches and selectors would be sleeping soundly with the combined flashes of pure rugby displayed by all New Zealand sides this season, with even the winless Highlanders often showcasing master classes in possession, even if they aren’t managing to convert this to points and wins.

The Chiefs, convincingly the most potent attacking outfit in Super Rugby so far this year, collecting a competition best 19 tries and four four-try bonus points, have revelled in what could perhaps be coined controlled chaos, with the champions splattering of individual brilliance melding with a strong team and coaching structure that continues to yield results less than twelve months after the Waikato based franchise won their first crown.

This is a style that the All Blacks will appreciate, but the excitement could come from the evolution we are witnessing in ‘title town’.

Fans in Pretoria, Brisbane and Hamilton (recent ‘capitals’ of Super Rugby champions) will argue that their respective successes show that the Crusaders machine, technically dormant since 2008 when they won the last of their seven titles, could be fading.

Title town might be fair to seven titles, but not for a five year drought beginning this season,

The Crusaders exceptional record over Super Rugby history forces a rethink especially after recent evidence their promised attacking game has eventuated, and while a test may await without the likes of Read and Carter in the next fortnight in the Republic, this shift in mentality for the red and blacks could be a hint for the World Champions in their second full year of holding the Webb Ellis Cup.

Some would hint, despite debate backing up the All Blacks statistical superiority for the majority of the 2012 campaign, that the number one ranked team in the world are vulnerable, with many gleefully pointing towards their loss to England – a pearl to back up the theory one is only as good as your last game…

A phenomenal record, for both the All Blacks and the New Zealand Super Rugby teams, is a comfortable cushion for any conversation leading towards whom of the SANZAR giants holds current court.

After one and a half months of Super Rugby, all Kiwi outfits have shown they can compete with their counterparts, but outside of the classic South African style and the Brumbies approach (oddly very much like the Republic sides thanks to a fella called Jake…,), the New Zealand teams have played a high level of attacking rugby.

The Chiefs 19 tries and the Crusaders 17 tries puts the two teams at the top of the 2013 scoring charts, while the Blues 14 scores are but one try behind the impressive Australian Conference leaders from their capital.

The season is so early it is merely an infant to what the All Blacks future, commencing with the Steinlager Series against 2011 Rugby World Cup runners-up France, and followed by The Investec Rugby Championship and the Bledisloe Cup, represents.

But the name of the game, more often than not, is attack at all costs for All Blacks teams, and the Kiwi Super Rugby sides are adhering to that aggressive philosophy.