The All Blacks are desperate for a reshuffle

The All Blacks are desperate for a reshuffle

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said emphatically after his side’s latest defeat that they were making progress in the right direction. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

“We made some changes defensively and in the last quarter we started to open things up. We started snatching a few balls, which is frustrating, but we have to build on that experience and take him to Ellis Park, get in there and give him a chance.

Foster finished by adding, “Sit back and take in the lessons, trust a little and relax…Ultimately, you don’t get the change you want by making dramatic changes and putting too much pressure on players.

So no drastic changes, keep trusting the coaches and players, things are going more or less as planned and the team is evolving. It’s fair to say that the head coach’s attitude has struck the wrong chord among Kiwi rugby supporters.

Ian Foster is not a man to lead a revolution. As the designated successor to Sir Graham Henry and Sir Steve Hansen, he can be a force for continuity, the coach to fine-tune the systems that have been passed down to him. There won’t be any dramatic changes in strategy or personnel while he’s at the helm, and improvement will be measured in small increments.

But with most New Zealand rugby fans having grown up in a golden age of 80-90% success, expectations are much, much higher. The cards are playing on the side of revolution rather than evolution – at least internationally, at least for the All Blacks. More fundamental change is needed to get New Zealand rugby off the ground – new ideas, new thinking, radicalism, not conservatism.

Sam Cane was a worthy successor to Sir Richie McCaw, and there can be no higher praise than that.

The choice of captain is subject to the same sea-changes. Sam Cane was groomed for the role of skipper for a number of years, but an unfortunate string of injuries at the wrong time in his career threw a big snag in the works.

At his peak, Cane was one of the best number 7s in the world, anywhere in the world: powerful, dynamic, a real firewall. He was a threat on the ball during the defensive breakdown, and he cleaned up offensive rucks with conclusive power. His defensive work rate was immense and his tackle power was a game-changer. Sam Cane was a worthy successor to Sir Richie McCaw, and there can be no higher praise than that.

He has returned from a broken neck suffered in a game against the Springboks in 2018, an injury described by the player himself as “a few millimeters away from never playing again”, in time to play a role in the New Zealand’s first World Cup campaign. year later. In 2021 he suffered a serious chest injury which cost him another six months, another major operation and knocked him out of the Rugby League.

There are only so many hits a fighter can take before entropy sets in, and recent signs suggest that Sam Cane may have reached that point. In the July series against Ireland, he placed second behind Josh van der Flier by far. The Leinster The man had more carries (26 to Cane’s 14) with significant results – tackles and assists – three to one in favor of van der Flier. In defence, the Irish flanker completed 62 of 63 tackle attempts with three turnovers. Compare that to Sam Cane’s numbers: 41 out of 43 successful tackles, with only one turnover won.

The writing was on the wall, and it was confirmed by the events at Mbombela Stadium in the first round of the Rugby Championship. Cane’s on-ball production has steadily declined. He earned a ground turnover in three matches against Ireland; he conceded a penalty for ‘no release’ in eight attempts on the ball against the Springboks, showing nothing on the positive side of the ledger:

The synergy between Ardie Savea and Sam Cane in last place is not easy. Ardie won the ball forward against Ireland and the Boks (9 strikes in total), Cane landed a throw in the back. Ardie is the main forward running back, with 124 yards on 32 carries in two and a half games against the Irish, and 16 significant results, compared to 27 yards and none for Cane. Savea also has more thieves in the field than Chiefs man in all four games (three for Ardie, one for Sam).

Although Sam Cane made more tackles (51 compared to Savea’s 38) that’s not enough to disturb the impression that Ardie is doing at least a man and a half man’s job. Take a look at this first footage inside the All Blacks 22 in Mbombela:

During the seven phases that this South African attack lasts, Cane and Savea make a tackle each and each have a shot on the ball on the bridge. But when the All Blacks regroup after each defensive phase, it is Ardie who plays the wider of the two back rowers. Where Sam Cane is the first defender out of the ruck on five occasions, Ardie Savea falls further, at second defender in four:

When the Boks finally move the ball, there’s only one New Zealand fullback in the picture, and that’s Ardie Savea:

If your number 8 is going to defend closer to the backs, this raises a question about the construction of your back-row: what is the role of your number 7 in this photo?

With Sam Cane running for 27 yards against the Irish and one yard at Mbombela Stadium, defenses tend to write him off as a runner and flood the man outside him:

In this type of situation, the All Blacks might be better off moving Ardie to number 7, or bringing in an open flanker who is a real threat to fix the defense by running the ball, like the Blues’ Dalton Papalii, or Ethan Blackadder crusaders.

It was surprising how many storylines at Mbombela ended up as one-on-one between Sam Cane and Springbok strongman Malcolm Marx. Cane brought back memories of his best work with a jab at the South African hooker:

That turnover was offset by three occasions when the New Zealand captain couldn’t stop Marx stealing the ball from the All Blacks’ collapse:

The last case is particularly brutal: Cane has the angle to take Marx out of the equation, but the Bokke rake is just too powerful and the New Zealand skipper bounces off him on contact.

Ian Foster is always busy insisting on his team’s evolution, but the way events are unfolding in two key areas – the combination in midfield and at full-back – suggests a revolution in thinking is needed . The mix at numbers 6, 7 and 8 is not good, and probably never will be as long as Ardie Savea and Sam Cane are considered essential parts of it.

Savea is Aotearoa’s best player right now, so the focus will inevitably be on Sam Cane’s position as captain and starting number 7. If Savea stays at 8, wouldn’t New Zealand benefit from a bigger body that gives the roster more carry? If he goes to 7, that makes room for another specialist like Hoskins Sotutu of the Blues, or Marino Mikaele-Tu’u of the Highlanders. Either option offers a better balance than what the All Blacks have now.

It’s time for street protests and fists to pump the air – Long live the revolution!

#Blacks #desperate #reshuffle

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