OPINION: The All Blacks delivered one of their best outings in the last two years on Saturday night.
They played ruthlessly, intelligently, and most of all sent a message to the rest of the rugby world.
The message was clear from the get go; the haka was one of the most emotionally intense performances I’ve seen from the boys in black.
The first 15 minutes were admittedly very patchy and somewhat rusty – we were going backwards at stages, dropping the ball all too often, and letting the Springboks break the defensive line.
However, after two tries in seven minutes saw the All Blacks take a 14 point lead, they soon played with the confidence and ruthlessness that we all know and love.
Every All Blacks play was aggressive and with intent. There was no “just take the tackle” mentality. Every carry was made to break the defensive line.
The backs were confidence that they had a big boy on their shoulder to make the immediate clear-out, and our forwards were owning the physical battle.
The All Blacks didn’t back down from the physicality at all and were intent on making metres.
Some moves and carries were very risky – should they have gone wrong, the Boks would have surely have had a breakaway. But our boys delivered a proficient level of accuracy and nailed this side of the game.
On defence, we were brutal. It was a wall of black for the Springboks. Our scramble defence was just as brilliant too.
Yes, we conceded a lone try. However, the amount of breaks that could have been likely, or were shut down pronto, points to the fact that our ability to make those scramble tackles – as well as defend the tight advantage line – is something that other teams will be physically punished for.
The somewhat questionable, yet potentially brilliant, combination of Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett was stellar. Both played outstandingly.
Ardie Savea is undoubtedly going to be a key player up front, and Aaron Smith is looking like he’s hitting his stride.
In summary, this game and performance from the All Blacks sent the message to the rest of the world that their game plan this time round is to attack regardless of the situation and defend just as hard.
Teams such as England, Ireland, Wales, and South Africa will be looking on in fear, because the All Blacks delivered the plan with a high level of pedigree that it doesn’t bode well for the knockout rounds.
This content was originally published here.