Richard Loe: A test to warm an old prop's heart

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I take my hat off to the All Blacks for the applied ferocity they brought to an old and fierce foe last night.

We are used to seeing the Springboks tear into the All Blacks with great physical force but last night, it was the All Blacks who did all the meaty stuff in the tackle and when taking the ball up.

The Boks were good, committed and their defence was excellent - but they just couldn't stay with an All Black team intent on dominating them.

It was good to see and it warmed an old prop's heart - which was just as well because it was bitterly cold once the squally rain of the first half stopped and the polar blast started.

These were difficult conditions, so it makes you want to congratulate players like Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Tony Woodcock, Rodney So'oialo and Jerome Kaino.

My man of the match was Thorn. I thought he typified the spirit the All Blacks took into this match and the ferocity with which they took up the ball, the tackles they made and the crunch they hit the breakdowns with.

Thorn wasn't standing for any nonsense from anyone and I thought he was tops. Kaino wasn't far behind. He slipped into Rodney So'oialo's No 8 position very well and ran strongly, always troubling the Boks.

He also nabbed a couple of short throws at the front of the lineout.

So'oialo, meanwhile, did well at the breakdown and around the field and led admirably. The All Blacks were so good at the breakdowns and at the tackle, you almost felt like saying: Richie who? Almost.

However, you could say with justification: Victor who? Matfield is acknowledged as pretty much the best lock in world rugby - although Ali Williams blew him away last night - but he looked out of it to me.

That's what happens when you play club rugby in France and then come into a white-hot test like that, complete with new rules (although I don't think they made too much difference last night).

Schalk Burger played well, as he always does, but I thought he kind of lost it after that altercation when Thorn dumped John Smit. I fancied Burger wasn't quite as effective after that at the breakdown - although he showed up well round the field.

Woodcock was excellent, as were all the All Black forwards, and the only slight negative would be some loose hands - to be expected when the wind and rain make things that cold and slippery.

I was also a bit disappointed they subbed Adam Thomson, as I didn't think Sione Lauaki added much. Kaino has grown into his role well with more game time - why not give Thomson the same opportunity?

But these are quibbles. Without their best player, the All Blacks dealt effectively with the most physical team on the planet and did it in a way that will give them great heart going forwards in the Tri Nations and for future international careers.

- Herald on Sunday

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