Handling under pressure sets All Blacks apart Posted about 3 years ago


The All Blacks record over the previous 24months is won 29, lost 1 and drawn 1. Many factors make up such global dominance. New Zealand players have remarkable physical and mental stamina. But I suggest there is one asset that separates the All Blacks from the rest of the world. It is simple and basic, but it is their skill with ball in hand.

Watch Wayne Smith’s ‘Catch & Pass Activities’ module – FREE

The All Blacks do not possess a fearsome pack. At least four nations currently scrummage better than New Zealand. Their power game is limited. But the handling of New Zealand players sets them apart. The coaches have given up some power for accuracy. They value time over strength, Hore over Mealamu, Aaron Smith over Weepu, Ben Smith above Gear.

At the weekend South Africa generated far more scoring opportunities than New Zealand. But the All Blacks were brilliant at converting the slightest space into points. The Springboks tried to rush New Zealand and they were burned. Never was the old saying, the pass is quicker than the man, borne out so precisely.

Ben Smith’s finish for the first try was first rate, but the passing was crucial. Aaron Smith’s pass to Cruden was perfect, and Cruden’s pass to Hore was again spot on, and this going left to right, traditionally the harder movement for right-handers. It gave Hore just enough time to flick the ball away before he was nailed by the rushing Fourie du Preez. But the accuracy of Hore’s flick on in turn gave Kieran Read just enough space to evade the tackle of Alberts. Without perfect accuracy Ben Smith would never have received the ball.

Watch Dan Carter’s ‘Decision Making on Attack’ module.

The All Blacks second try was again about accuracy under pressure. Savea looked as if he was going to be nailed on the touchline, but he got the ball back inside. Dagg’s pick-up and flick up for Read were instant and the number eight was able to pass out the back to Conrad Smith. Possession was saved and when the second breach came from Nonu, it was again because of the passing accuracy of Aaaron Smith and Cruden off their left hand. New Zealand got in behind South Africa because their passing bought time and space.

Liam Messam’s second try and New Zealand’s third was again all about the accuracy of the pass, both in the early build-up and final execution. Again South Africa tried to rush up, again they were taken out by the pass. Not much has been said about Cruden’s game on Saturday, but the precision of his passing played its part in each of New Zealand’s first three tries.

For too long great hands have been an anachronism in the modern game. Britain and France have valued power over skill. New Zealand’s pack is full of ball handlers. Would Sam Whitelock, perhaps the best lock with ball in hand in the game, be so valued north of equator. Would Aaron Smith’s pass have been devalued by the bang, crash of the biffers in midfield.

Indeed would all the Smiths, Aaron, Ben and Conrad, have been discarded in the hurly burly of the frozen north because they couldn’t drag defenders two yards over the gain line. Watching the All Blacks move further ahead of the world has been a joy and an education. But does the Northern Hemisphere want to learn its lesson?

Enter your email address to continue reading

We frequently post interesting articles and comment from our world class content providers so please provide us with your email address and we will notify you when new articles are available.

We'll also get in touch with various news and updates that we think will interest you. We promise to not spam, sell, or otherwise abuse your address (you can unsubscribe at any time).


comments powered by Disqus

Mark Reason has been a sports journalist for over 25 years. He currently works for Fairfax Media and will also be part of the Telegraph's World Cup team and a regular panellist on Radio New Zealand during the World Cup. He has covered every Rugby World Cup since 1991, the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, over 40 golf major championships, the FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a lot of other stuff he can't remember. Mark emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 having spent over 20 years covering sport for the Telegraph and Sunday Times in Britain.

Topic News & Opinions
Applicable to Coaches  

Related articles

Winging it

The Hurricanes wing play destroyed the Crusaders in Super Rugby’s round 7. Mark Reason points out the lessons to be learned from Savea et al.

In search of the perfect pass

The Hurricanes delivered a lesson in how to execute the right pass at the right time against the Cheetahs in Super Rugby round 5.

The art of the kick in behind

Jonny Sexton and Ireland tried to exploit England’s rush defence by kicking in behind. Unfortunately for the Irish, Sexton lacked the kind of precision that Aaron Cruden showed against them in November.

Schmidt plots a course through England's defence

Joe Schmidt and Ireland found a way to breach both the All Black’s and the Welsh defences. Can they repeat the trick at Twickenham on Saturday and stay on course for the Grand Slam?

Ah, the rolling maul

Josef Schmidt’s Ireland identified Wales’s weaknesses and were relentless in exposing them writes Mark Reason