KSA Shark ©

Props to help cover hooker as ABs gamble against Boks


Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :All Blacks, In the news, Tri Nations on 3 Aug 2008 at 08:33

Prop Tony Woodcock, the two-try hero of the stunning Bledisloe Cup win, will be asked to cover lineout throwing duties as the All Blacks gamble with their hookers for the trip to South Africa to face a Springboks side forwards coach Steve Hansen rates as Tri-Nations favourites.

Duncan Johnstone writes for RugbyHeaven NZ that the All Blacks take a welcome week off after tightening the Tri-Nations title race with their storming 39-10 win over Australia at Eden Park on Saturday night.

It’s an even three-team field at the moment but Hansen believes the Boks, sitting third and five-points adrift of the top-placed All Blacks, have an advantage with their final three matches at home.

They play the All Blacks in Cape Town on August 16 and then host Australia twice. The Wallabies and All Blacks then square off for their rematch in Brisbane on September 13 to complete the Tri-Nations.

Now the All Blacks selectors are sitting down to work out the right formula for their one-off test in South Africa.

They will take a 26-man squad with Hansen confirming that would include three halfbacks – meaning a trip for Piri Weepu – but only two hookers.

Loosehead prop Woodcock will be asked to cover lineout throwing duties and fellow prop John Afoa will step into the breach in the middle of the front row if their worst nightmares were realised and either or both of Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu get injured.

The All Blacks will gamble that their front line No 2s can get through a week of training in Cape Town without problems to start the test at Newlands.

That will allow them to take additional backup at loose forward, an area they feel they are better to cover off for emergencies.

The selectors are also yet to decide on what they do with their outside backs as Leon MacDonald (head) and Rudi Wulf (strained knee from North Harbour’s Air NZ Cup loss on Friday) are given time to be assessed.

They have toyed with bringing in a backup fullback but a final decision is yet to be made. They were comfortable with Richard Kahui’s performance in his new role at wing against the Wallabies and believe he can also cover No 15 at a pinch.

The hooking decision is a calculated gamble but they wouldn’t want to come unstuck in either areas of the lineout or scrum, two facets where the Boks pride themselves and will back their pack to match or better the All Blacks anyway.

The All Blacks’ move in this area comes with the blessing of scrum guru Mike Cron who has obviously cast a keen eye over the hooking abilities of Afoa while the throwing technique of Woodcock has been closely scrutinised with the management mulling over this possiibility for some time.

“Tony is a very good thrower and has been doing a bit of work on it quietly in the background,” said Hansen.

“With all the injuries we have got in that key area (hooker) we think that’s the best option we have got.”

Hansen will be looking for his pack to push on from their Eden Park effort, a performance he rated alongside the earlier win over the Springboks this year and the 2004 Paris victory over France among the top three during his time in charge of that department.

“We were pretty spot-on and probably the best thing was that it was because we were under a lot of pressure and there was group of young people involved. For those guys to experience that and come through on the other side, I think is really good for them.”

Hansen conceded that after tinkering with his back row all season he had probably found the right mix in an area where the All Blacks were able to counter the strength of the Wallabies the previous week in Sydney.

Richie McCaw’s return was crucial but Rodney So’oialo’s return to No 8 and Jerome Kaino’s shift to blindside seemed to complement their skipper.

“Rodney is a lot more comfortable there. But you have to try things … if you don’t try things you don’t learn things. But he is definitely comfortable at eight, especially when Richie is there. You have got Richie getting there first and him getting there second as a forager.”

The All Blacks know that with their noses back in front of this championship, they have an opportunity now to defend the title for the fourth year in a row.

Hansen said that didn’t mean they were favourites at this delicate stage of the tournament.

“You would have to say that South Africa are for the fact that they have three home games. But we are in charge of our own destiny. If we can win the remaining games, then we will have a big show.”

The All Blacks will reassemble on Thursday. They fly out to South Africa on Friday, giving themselves a full week of training to acclimatise.



2 Comments

  • Aaaaaalritey then

  • Comment 1, posted at 04.08.08 10:02:32 by PJLD Reply
    Administrator
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
     
  • We can definitely win 2 out of 3 at home.

    Anything less will be unacceptable. :evil:

    We ARE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS after all. (damn that sounds good)

  • Comment 2, posted at 04.08.08 10:23:25 by wpw Reply
    Administrator
    wpwAssistant coach
     

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