The hardest teams to defend against are the ones that are least predictable. The All Blacks have that edge. They can move defences deep with the power of their kicking game or they can come at you from any part of the pitch. The continued unpredictability of New Zealand makes the World Cup winners favourites to win the inaugural Rugby Championship.
For a long time the Aussies were hard to coach because of their unpredictability. But in recent times they have lost some of that capacity to surprise. In the World Cup semi-final they kicked away far too much ball and the All Blacks were able to play.
In previous matches perhaps Australia had erred at the other end of the scale. Quade Cooper is a wonderful player in many ways, but his reluctance to kick makes it easier to set the defence. Will Genia is a superb kicker and will kick 16 to 18 times in a game. Cooper only kicked once or twice. So there was an element of predictability there.
With Berrick Barnes at fly-half it gives Australia more of the type of kicking balance that South Africa had with Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn. And you can’t sit too deep on Genia expecting him to kick or he will burn you on the run.
Australia have lost some of their running threat across their midfield in the absence of Cooper and James O’Connor, but Rob Horne is a lot quicker than people may think. Australia will also run a number of decoy plays to get their steppers like Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane into space. And do not underestimate Adam Ashley-Cooper who is a great player. It is a threatening back three.
The All Blacks do not have quite the same level of kicking threat that they carry when Piri Weepu plays at half back. But the left foot, right foot combination of Dan Carter and Israel Dagg still enables them to fracture a defence.
With Aaron Smith at half back I would not expect the All Blacks to play the sort of insistent territory game that the Crusaders prefer. They will put some pressure on the Australian backfield, but there will also be an emphasis on getting the ball quickly into midfield.
There has been some controversy over Sonny Bill’s inclusion, given that he is off to Japan and then rugby league next season. But none of it should be aimed at SBW. He is just answering the call. Life would have been far easier for him if he had just taken off for Japan straight away.
The only potential issue is with players like Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith who might wonder why a bloke who is leaving is being selected ahead of them. But I am sure that Steve Hansen and the rest of the staff will have sat down with Smith and Ellison and explained that the All Blacks jersey is all about winning. Their time will come, but victory comes first.
And there should be enough of those to put the All Blacks on top at the end of the inaugural Rugby Championship.