Hertford Highlander

World Cup-ometer – All Black Mid Term Report

Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, RWC 2011, Springboks, Super Rugby, Tri Nations on 18 Apr 2011 at 14:29
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At the half way stage of this year Super Rugby Competition, it’s about the appropriate time to run the rule over the individuals who may don their countries national colours. In this huge year of rugby, we are now only a matter of months away from International squads being selected. With this in mind we (the public) can be forgiven for starting to comment on the selection of our respective national sides and their make-up’s.

The old saying of ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ has been doing the rounds until now, it’s use often occurs when defending a players poor recent or early season form, however now I am hoping it will be put away, if it is not we may see Meads versus Classens come lineout time in this year’s RWC Semi Final at Eden Park.

In New Zealand our three national coaches have been busy men in the first 9 rounds of the Super Rugby competition. All three have been visiting the 5 New Zealand franchises, and they have not been fleeting visits either. All visits have been the best part of a full week, often sitting in on the previous weeks match analysis and concluding with the next match day performance. Their time has been multi-faceted but primarily their stay has been to talk to past, present and potentially future RWC All Blacks. These conversations have been to talk about their (the players) personal performances and how they feel they are going and what they (the coaches) think they need to be doing as the season unfolds. By all reports these chats have not been all warm and fuzzy catch ups with old friends, egos have apparently not been stroked nor has there been a great deal of sympathy for those players battling or coming back from injury. The bottom line has been if they (the players) have not been playing then they (the coaches) have had next to nothing to say to them other than, ‘get yourself back, fit, on the field and we will talk then’. In the cases of incumbent All Blacks and when I say incumbent I mean the 30 that went away on last year’s EOYT, many conversions have been to the point and frank. We get an insight into how Ted is currently operating by the feedback Sitiveni Sivivatu gave the media post the coaching visit by Ted’s crew to the Chiefs camp recently. Sivivatu’s personal interview was less than comfortable for the All Blacks number one winger and reports quickly started to do the rounds that he had fallen out with the All Black management. This is obviously not true, but what is true is that voices were raised, disagreements were had and the topic of conversation was Sivivatu’s performance on the rugby field so far this season. Many bystanders have commented that the Chiefs winger looks like he has got one foot on the plane already (Clermont Auvergne has secured his signature post RWC).

Like Ted and co. most selections panels from around the world will have a rough idea of who is in their RWC draft squad, and up until now they would not be too concerned about their form – however about now that is all about to change.

So how are they (the chosen one’s) going and who if the side was picked now would get the nod.

From my understanding the squad size for teams at the 2011 RWC is 30 players. I imagine (if that is the case) most sides, with the All Blacks being no exception will split their squads along the lines of 16 forwards and 14 backs. On the 2010 EOYT the All Blacks named 30 players with that split. In that touring squad the All Black selectors definitely picked the strongest side possible and although there were some injuries to contend with there looked a clear intent to put down a marker to the rest of the rugby playing world that the AB’s would be at full strength from now until the final day of rugby in 2011. Those players that got the nod on that tour therefore look to have everything to lose in World Cup year and breaking into that squad looks a tough mission, if not an impossible one.

Of the incumbent 30 man All Black Squad going on current form 17 look set in stone already, even at this early stage. Barring serious injury or a dramatic fall from grace they should all grace our screens during October.

The 2011 RWC All Black certainties look like being:

Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Ritchie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Keiaran Read, Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Daniel Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Ice Toeava and Mils Miliaina.

Admittedly Woodcock, Whitelock, and Carter are carrying injuries but they should be fine and have all shown enough this year to be included.

So where does that leave us, where are the gaps and who are the contenders.

Well within that list of 17 players there are probably only gaps in the starting fifteen in both centre positions and on the right wing. All other incumbent starting All Blacks look on course to hold their jerseys.

So what does the squad break down currently look like?

Hookers: Mealamu, Hore and Elliott are the incumbents but that is a bit like saying Bismark, John and Chiliboy are the best three hookers in South Africa – clearly they are not ! In New Zealand clearly Hore and Elliott are under pressure from the in-form Corey Flynn. Overlooking the form Crusaders rake would be a huge call.

Props: Owen Franks, John Ofoa and Tony Woodcock have been in great form with the only slight concern a recent calf strain to Woodcock. This leaves only one spot and realistically should go hands down to Owen’s big brother, Ben. The bearded Crusaders trio of Owen, Ben and Corey are given stiff competition from Blues, Keven, John and Tony. This front row tussle in Round 17, is something I’ve marked in my diary as a must watch already.

Locks: Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock and Anthony Boric have all been good value for their spots during the first half of the season. The fourth locking spot on the EOYT went to Highlanders man Tom Donnelly but Tom’s chances in the first half of the Super campaign have been limited due to injury and also the form of his colleagues in the Deep South. This fourth spot looks wide open with plenty of contenders. Any one of the following could get the nod with a huge second half to the season.
Donnelly, Ali Williams, Issac Ross, Jarred Hoeata, Josh Berquist, Chris Jack, Jeremy Thrush and Jason Eaton all have plenty to play for.

Loosies: The starting Test incumbents’ all look set in stone – McCaw, Read and Kaino. This potentially leaves 2 spots. The incumbents’ are Daniel Braid and Liam Messam and both look under severe pressure. Braid only featured in the first 4 matches for the Blues this season before fallen victim to injury while Messam has been struggling in an under-performing Chiefs side. On form Matt Todd and Adam Thompson would be picked ahead of these two, however with openside flanker well covered by both of these individuals, only one maybe required and there may be the call for a genuine block busting ‘Number 8’ type in the mix. Unlikely All Blacks contenders in the form of Matt Luamanu, Nasi Manu, Fritz Lee and Victor Vito may all be still in the mix with Messam, Todd and Thompson for those final forwards berths.

Scrumhalf’s: Cowan, Weepu, Ellis or Mathewson that is pretty much it in a nut shell. All eyes during the second half of the season will be on Piri Weepu’s return to the top flight. If he can turn around and direct a fairly rudderless Hurricanes outfit, it then looks to be a straight shoot-out between Ellis and Mathewson for the third scrummie, with Ellis’ superior kicking game likely to win the day.

First Five: Well there is Carter and that’s it. Even the All Black selectors have gone on record to say there is no back up to Carter and to be honest there isn’t. However that still does not mask the fact that there needs to be two other players that must be selected in the 30 man squad, to fill this role should Daniel fall over. Expect Weepu to play some Super Rugby at number 10 during the second half of the season but he will be considered during a RWC campaign as a fourth option. Colin Slade’s broken jaw on the weekend has really thrown the cat amongst the pigeon’s, as he will not now play any more part of the Highlanders Super Rugby campaign. Therefore his selection is dicey. Delaney, Cruden, Brett, Berquist, McAlister and even dare I say it, Donald all have great chances to push their claims. My guess is that we have not yet seen the last of Colin Slade and the aforementioned list will all be ‘all guns blazing’ for one spot.

Centres: As I read recently, you can’t have the Rum without the Coke and that seems to apply more than ever when you select a centre combination. New Zealand’s top combination is Hurricanes duo Ma’ Nonu and Conrad Smith and few would argue with that sweeping statement. However their effectiveness for whatever reason has been diminished this year, why, who knows ! On the other hand speaking of ‘Rum and Coke’, Williams and Fruean have been nothing but superb, but one still gets the feeling that the later (Fruean) still has work to do, to get a Black jersey. Nonu and Smith are likely to come through the second half of the season with a pass mark, as a desperate Canes side pick up the pieces of their season. Fruean, just may lose out to Richard Kahui from the Chiefs, who in the brief glimpse he gave us in his first outing last weekend (when he went head to head with Fruean), he can play centre or wing and is a proven performer at international level.

Wings and Fullbacks: This therefore leaves 4 spots open. Going on what we have seen to date Ice Toeava will nail down one of these places. With Ice and Slade potentially in the squad this may prompt the need for only one specialist Fullback and Mils is likely to be the man for the job. Wing wise, Sivivatu and Gear will get the remaining two wing berths. This leaves Dagg, Jane, Rokocoko, Guildford, Maitland and Ranger unlucky, very unlucky.

Potential AB Squad at the half way stage of the Super Rugby season !

Hookers: Mealamu, Hore, Flynn
Props: O. Franks, B. Franks, Woodcock, Afoa
Locks: Thorn, Whitelock, Boric, Williams
Loosies: McCaw, Kaino, Read, Thompson, Todd
Halfbacks: Cowan, Weepu, Ellis
First Fives: Carter, Slade, Donald
Centres: Nonu, Smith, Williams, Kahui
Wings: Gear, Sivivatu, Toeava
Fullbacks: Muliaina

Non RWC All Blacks to watch during the second half of the Super Rugby season.

15. Izzy Dagg (Crusaders)
14. Joe Rokocoko (Blues)
11. Zac Guildford (Crusaders)
13. Robbie Fruean (Crusaders)
12. Luke McAlistair (Blues)
10. Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes)
9. Alby Mathewson (Blues)
8. Victor Vito (Hurricanes)
7. Daniel Braid (Blues)
6. Liam Messam (Chiefs)
5. Jarred Hoeata (Highlanders)
4. Tom Donnelly (Highlanders)
3. Nem Tialata (Hurricanes)
2. Hika Elliott (Chiefs)
1. Jamie Macintosh (Highlanders)

Form is temporary, class is permanent ! – Well yes, but now seems an appropriate time to put that call away for the rest of the season and pick what is in front of you !


  • Form is temporary, class is permanent ! – Well yes, but now seems an appropriate time to put that call away for the rest of the season and pick what is in front of you !

    I could not agree more. Choose who is inform. You cannot win a RWC with a player if he’s not up to standard when it counts. Then we might as well go and fetch Danie in Dispatch…. 😆

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.04.11 14:37:42 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • GO BOKKE !!! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.04.11 14:37:58 by Charlie Reply

  • @Ice (Comment 1) : Saw him @ our club game in Brackenfell… 😆

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.04.11 14:39:11 by Charlie Reply

  • Scary summary HH, but very interesting – thanks!

    I have always rated Kahui – big, fast and skillful. If he is fit, I would certainly take him above Fruean.

  • Comment 4, posted at 18.04.11 14:40:39 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • hoesit mase kjenners!

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.04.11 14:47:53 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Well HH, this is your guys’ year, so don’t blow it 😀 Judging from the Bulls’ performances, it looks like we’re going to be carrying a lot of crocked geriatrics to the World Cup. Prof Tim Noakes has been warning the SA coaches about player burnout for a couple of seasons now, but (sigh) no-one listened. If you look at our Springbok stalwarts:
    Vic Matfield & Bakkies Botha – off form
    Habana – Off form
    Spies – Off form
    Jon Smit – Getting back into it
    Morne Steyn – Nowhere
    Fourie Du Preez – Eish 😯
    So ja, not looking good for the Boks, but I’m not going to write them off just yet.

  • Comment 6, posted at 18.04.11 14:47:55 by CapeShark Reply
    The Great Couch Shark
  • @robdylan (Comment 5) : @Big Fish (Comment 4) :

    Cheers BF, we must remember its only a mid term report ! 😉

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.04.11 14:50:38 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) :

    Lost on me ! 😕

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.04.11 14:51:14 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Charlie (Comment 3) : Is my Uncle.. 😉

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.04.11 14:52:10 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @CapeShark (Comment 6) :

    No one will be writing off South Africa ! 😉

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.04.11 14:52:35 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) : Hello Roberto! Lekker shitty in Jozie, hey??

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.04.11 14:54:18 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Geez but the AB’s have a lot of talent to choose from in the backs. You haven’t even mentioned Jared Payne who’s has a fantastic year so far. The back line depth in NZ is fantastic when Ranger, Maitland Dagg etc. might not even make the squad.

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.04.11 14:56:51 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 11) : yup… hence me going to Pretoria this evening 🙂

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.04.11 14:57:07 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 10) : HH….has the dreaded c word made it appearance in NZ yet?

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.04.11 15:04:36 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 14) : 😉

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.04.11 15:06:15 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 15) : It was actually a serious question….I’m just wondering if they have that hanging over them the same as the SA cricketers?

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.04.11 15:07:42 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 9) : 😛

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.04.11 15:34:35 by Charlie Reply

  • @Charlie (Comment 17) : Stroes Bob…My Mom’s cousin – so I guess its first cousin then??

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.04.11 15:38:33 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • I thought Dagg would be a shoe-in and probably Maitland too but I also haven’t been catching all of the NZ union games.

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.04.11 15:41:33 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 18) : 1st cousin once removed. 🙂

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.04.11 16:01:45 by McLovin Reply

  • @McLovin (Comment 20) : Flippit die Ingilse maak dit ook maar flippen moeilik…

  • Comment 21, posted at 18.04.11 16:04:43 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 21) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 22, posted at 18.04.11 16:10:15 by McLovin Reply

  • Dagg, Maitland and Ranger are doing well and if they keep it up they’ll create more problems for NZ selectors – good problems though.

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.04.11 16:34:37 by blackshark - the lurker Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • Judging by what I saw on Saturday with Quade Cooper and Will Genia blitzing the Bulls’ defence, the Wallabies’ mid-term report is starting to look somewhat impressive as well and way more exciting than the same-old, same-old prospect of Steyn and du Preez… zzzzzz

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.04.11 17:10:49 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • Great write-up HH. One of my favourite non-rugby days on the calendar is the day when the NZRU names the first squad of the test season. It use to be even better in the days when they played trial matches. The surprises on the day aren’t necessarily the guys that get picked, it’s the quality players that are left out just as your article has shown. Everyone has a favourite “must-be-in” player amongst that B team.

    Weepu is one of those players that defies the rule about being a utility player. His versatility coupled with his placekicking skills (probably prioritised in the reverse order there) make him good choice for the squad and the AB bench. Another such player is Luke McAlister who seems to have taken forever to do so but has finally returned to being that sublime player he was back in S/R 2003.

    Andy Ellis. We’ve seen him in this irresistible form before at S/R level, only to find out that he is the most basic of basic players with no real area of excellence in his game to cope at test level. What is Andy Ellis actually good at? Doing the basics really really well?

    Brad Thorn is a machine. It’s hard to believe he’s 36.

    I’m just so happy that Ice is putting up the numbers this seasons. Like Nonu in so many seasons gone by, despite his contribution to the cause, critics continue to doubt his ability to hold down a place in the Black. Go Ice!!! I love the Toeavalache!!!

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.04.11 20:11:24 by beet Reply
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