AB's 2016 in Review
13 from 14 after missing 800+ caps.
Chuck Bledisloe retained.
Perfect Rugby Championship.
A few noobs introduced.
Continue to fuck with the minds of the northern tinfoil brigade.
The only black spot(s) being the result in Chi town, and perhaps the performances at Eden Park and Dublin (and to a lesser extent Paris) where we won on defence (which is a good thing).
Generally a solid B+ for me.
On review we didn't mess too much with the First XV throughout with the exception of Italy. However injury allowed us some pseudo rotation.
I think we need to confirm a 3rd hooker.
Our top 4 props are good. Next in line needs some looking at. Ofa cops a bit of slack but he held up OK. Laulala and Moli bear looking at next year.
Locks. Top 2 are top 2. Romero has some work to do to stay in front of Barrett. Pat T was a bit of a disappointment on tour. Wanted him to meast it up. Think he suffered from lack of game time. Think he's one of those guys who gets better the more they play. So won't write him off. Bird in the background is worth remembering too.
Loosies: apologies from me to Matt Todd. I didn't think he was Test class. He is. He's not Sam Cane but he's not bad. Ardie at this stage has his niche in the pine.
We missed JK at 6 in Chicago. And I don't think either Squire or Dixon are his replacement. As I have said elsewhere I think Luatua is a more like-for-like replacement. Ioane may be a bench option.
Read was quiet, but hardly a passenger. A long term replacement 8 is needed too. Ioane is not that yet IMO.
Halfbacks. We're well served. We all know about Smith's form dip. Disappointing. But a month or two off to get his head right will do him a world of good.
TJ's form has been a huge plus.
Back up from TKB, Weber and Pulu and there's plenty of depth.
When you consider Lima Sopoaga is rated the 3rd 10 we're doing good there.
BB killed it this year. AC still looks really good even if he is not BB.
As always we need to consider who else is around. Need at least 4 10s one of whom can whitebait. DMac must be in the mix I suppose.
Midfield. Well after starting the year with this area as a point of major panic, whilst it's not a weapon currently it's not the weakness it could gave been.
ALB looks the part. Crotty makes whoever he is there with look good. Fekitoa has his moments. Moala runs hard and straight. Reiko (just for @GT12) looked comfortable in his outings. Tamanivalu may be a bit of a work on.
Given SBW will be around, Barrett Jr will have a full SR campaign, and Charlie Ngatai may be over his head knocks (hopefully - for his sake as much as anything else) we're not thin at 12/13.
Wings. We had our moments. Savea was up and down. He suffered a lot from reputation lag though. If he didn't score from 35m out and only beat one tackler he was "useless". Some of the criticism was justified some of it wasn't. Naholo had flashes but I'm sure we hoped for a bit more. Given we were forced to play Dagg at 14 says something about the depth and form of our wings.
Ioane could be additional cover here and if course NMS will hopefully be back. Nanai may be an option too.
BFA was excellent through the year. Dagg excellent deputy.
Considering though that Dagg was the best option at wing we need to look for depth in the back 3. As above NMS covers this and Nanai has been in the mix. Proctor may be on the fringes.
With regard to tactics I think teams have worked out that they can't kick it back to us. So they hold on to the ball more. Hence we've had to defend. And by crikey the defence has been awesome. Teams may have worked out that they need to hold on to the ball, they just need to learn how to hold on to it and do something with it to break that defence.
In a lot of ways we've slowly been dragged back to the pack from where we were at the start of the season .. or at least the chasing pack has caught us a little.
I think Aussie at Eden Park looked dangerous and have backed that up (even allowing for Ireland result).
Not sure of some of our tactics. Plenty of times I'd have liked to work the corners rather than a half pie kick which turned over possession 60m out. We did that too much against Aus at EP, Ireland and France. And they were all good enough to take advantage and mount attacks. Deeper kicks would have put more pressure on.
Anyway. My 2c.
I'm making a list.
Excellent review and I agree completely.
I am surprised we do not kick the ball out more considering how good our lineout D is.
I think BB work on for summer has to be goalkicking and the distance on his penalties into touch.
The weakness of South Africa is bad for us.
The 6 nations sides bar Italy appear to be playing some great rugby and have been a great challenge.
The Lions squad is going to have some serious depth and they have a genuine chance of beating us.
I'm really looking forward to SR next year and seeing how all the new ABs perform and seeing SBW and NMS back in action.
Should be some pretty good depth at wing next year, with NMS's return and the continued development of some young players (Ioane, Nanai, Lowe). Moala, or another midfielder, could be an option too.
Good review and agree with all of it.
Great season considering how much experience was lost and how much rebuilding needed to be done.
A few awards i've randomly made up in my head and would like to present to the players.
Come back kid of the year: Izzy Dagg, had a great year and shows that instead of dropping your bundle and chasing overseas cash after getting dropped you can work hard and get back to the top.
Newby of the year: ALB. Was barely mentioned in the midfield conversation at the start of the season. All of Crotty, SBW, Moala Fekitoa, Ngatai and Seta were agead of him but he has had the most impact and be seen as first choice now.
Player of the year: BB. Continued his freakish impact that started off the bench over the last few years. Proved he can do it over 80 mins and control things when needed. His wobbly goal kicking didn't cost us any games but hope he works on that and his punt distance.
Biggest letdown: DMac, not a nice award to win but after the hype early in the Super season his time in the ABs was a bit of an anticlimax. Im sure he will get another shot at some point though.
Best team play aspect: tie between the lineout and the defence. Both awesome all year.
Ok that is all i can think of.
Roll on super rugby 2017.
Blues vs Hurricanes final.
Edit. Thought of another.
Most improved (similar to the comeback kid but different) : TJP. Didn't even make the first squad of the year and plenty of people weren't fussed. Took his chances well and took the starting role by the end. Great to have him and Smith competing for that spot.
All Blacks 80tries scored (5.71per game) 18 against (1.29 per game).....
Also I think if our midfielders stay injury free next year we won't see fekitoa back in black.... just my 2cents on that.
@Magpie_in_aus expect our try average from the EOYt woulda been lower than the other tests, plus our points conceded woulda went up too.
Im wondering whether our flatter performances since the end of RC are in fact an indirect result of the player drain from last year. The senior guys this year have had a higher workload due to both the increase in responsibility and the fact that the top side has been used for the majority of games due to injuries/lack of depth.
The newer guys might also be running a bit low on juice having not taken part in a full international season before.
Add to that the extended Super rugby seasons for many of the players having to play/travel for finals. I bet there are some guys looking forward to the offseason.
I hope and trust they let their hair down last night. A pretty grueling year all things considered
Great post, Boo. I thought the introduction and advancement of young uns like ALB and Barrett the S to be a highlight - they both look to be the goods. Really like the way TJP and BB stepped up too. The trophies and test win record were all bonuses for a team in full rebuild.
I'll reserve judgement on the prospect of SBW being a midfield contender until he shows form and the ability to stay injury free for longer than five minutes. He was lacklustre in a disastrous sevens campaign and don't think he'll waltz back into the 15 side no matter what his fanbois say.
He was also one of the best players at the 2015 RWC, so I guess us fanboys might have some justification for pencilling him into the 2017 squad.
Good point. There seemed a definite reluctance to rotate too many guys. I think you're right about it being due to that layer being gone.
@booboo Hansen was keen to bring SBW straight into the squad after Rio (before his injury) so he must be integral to their plans. Having said that, I'm not sure the AB coaches are completely sure who their best midfield is yet, but as you say, we have some depth and options. Super rugby form might be the decider. The same for the loose forward mix.
The only review I want to read is Canes4Life and how he explains why Matt Todd got more test starts than Ardie Savea this year
@booboo If that was your 2c, you'd need a book with chapters for anything more. Very good.
I'd give the coaches an A-, they achieved a lot in 2016 given all the departures. Don't think they took enough selection risk though. Take last night - did we learn anything by playing Kaino at 6? Would we have learnt something by playing Luatua at 6?
The main issue in the pack is blindside, Kaino seems like 2017 will be his last season. Not convinced by Dixon, Squire or Luatua as starting blindside. Shields tends to have butter fingers at times, Taufua seems too short and so on. I would like to see the selectors pick Akira Ioane and coach him to have a higher work-rate. It will be nice to have Harris back as bench hooker too.
The midfield was always going to be somewhat of an issue, and the injuries didn't help. SBW + ALB seems maybe the best option for the Lions.
Also need some better wing options, NMS should fix that problem. And maybe Rieko Ioane too. Just to have different options to Savea/Naholo who are quite samey.
Very bifurcated season. Though a one loss season is pretty hard to beat.
I thought we were A+ during the Wales tour, Rugby Championship and Bledisloe game. I don't honestly think we could have been much better. We made South Africa and Australia look a lot worse than they were though South Africa are now even worse than they looked. We played some of the best rugby ABs have played in the professional era.
The NH tour was a C+ for me. We underachieved and let Ireland and France live with us and bar the first 10 minutes of the second Irish test never seemed to find the extra gear excluding Italy. Fatigue definitely a factor but that makes you wonder why we we did not give more players a rest during RC. I thought selections backfired particularly badly in Chicago. If we can pick up where we left off before going on tour you have to feel pretty good.
It's clear the players are fairly exhausted by season's end. We never offer it up as excuse for our rare defeats though.
I didn't go to Chicago, Dublin or Paris. Sorry fellas, my fault.
The only review I want to read is Canes4Life and how he explains why Matt Todd got more test starts than Ardie Savea this year
You're a cruel man, has he written it yet? I could do with a laugh.
I think a better way of reflecting on how good this season was, is to think about those fellas we lost at the end of 2015 and their 800 caps worth of experience and sheer quality and consistency they bought.
The travel is huge for these guys, the six nations NH teams have it much, much easier than we do yet we still perform very well. It bodes well in future for World Cup's I think. I mean in the old days, who would fly to SA for one game, then fly back to NZ for a return match? We were over there for weeks and vice versa. No wonder they are shattered for the NH tour, or at least past their best every year. I know they're professional athletes but that much air travel and time zone change affects everyone.
I've been very pleased with the AB's efforts this year, the RC was a huge effort and following on from the WC win it's great to cement it with this season, the boys should be very proud.
It's clear to me though that our game plan needs some adjustment in the face of the type of performances that Ireland and France laid out over the last couple of weeks. If we don't get the ball, or don't keep the ball long enough, we're not going to score as freely in the future. Not concerned it's just a tactical change we'll need to adapt to and try to counter. I'm not sure we're committing enough numbers to the breakdown in situations where we can't win the ball back and opposition is not making mistakes. Need to be quicker to adapt to those situations than doggedly stick to a game plan if it's not working. Not helped of course with Cane injured and a new guy covering.
I'd give the AB's an A- for the year, only marred by losing to Ireland for the first time is 112 years or whatever it is. Still, if the AB's hadn't relaxed, and had squeaked by would we have seen the massive improvement in defence we saw in the last two games? Probably not.
How long do we have to wait for Super Rugby??