All Blacks: Rokocoko enters record books

By Andrew Alderson

Joe Rokocoko scored his 46th try last night. Photo / Getty Images
Joe Rokocoko scored his 46th try last night. Photo / Getty Images

Last night, Joe Rokocoko became the most capped winger in All Black history with 64 tests and moved to second-equal on 46 test tries with Christian Cullen. It leaves him just three behind Doug Howlett.

But his efforts on defence and in support play rather than his famed try-scoring came to the fore in the All Blacks win.

Rokocoko was a case study into the wider All Blacks game plan which could be termed Total Rugby, similar to the Netherlands' Total Football which took them to the final of the 1974 World Cup.

Any player on the field seems to be able to master any skill. Wings are playing like loose forwards and retaining the ball at the breakdown while front rowers run without clumsiness in the backline.

The athleticism is stunning as is the mobility and economy of movement around the field despite the turf starting to churn as the match went on.

The theory of Total Rugby is assisted by a ferocity on defence where the term 'team-mate' has never been more apt as they reach supreme levels of player support.

Eventually the Wallabies got across with a try to Adam Ashley-Cooper but it took a sustained period of attack with their 14 men to create any gaps.

Rokocoko tackled James O'Connor to save a try in the third minute after an initial hit from Mils Muliaina. Later in the half, he was helping Ma'a Nonu turn over the ball to help Richie McCaw score after fullback Ashley-Cooper was caught alone outside his 22 with little support.

Brad Thorn was already ranging on the inside. The Blues winger also regularly turns up in the midfield hungry for work knowing that the competition for wingers in the All Blacks ranks is heating up with Rene Ranger, Zac Guildford and the injured Sitiveni Sivivatu on standby with the World Cup just over a year away.

Rokocoko's fellow wing Cory Jane was another example. He received a Smith pass heading into the Wallabies half and proceeded to hold off a charging Australian captain Rocky Elsom with one hand while chipping in field with his foot. That's multi-tasking. Then, as if to celebrate the All Blacks skill-set, Muliaina was on hand to gather the kick and score on his 30th birthday in his 86th test.

Adding lustre to Jane's skills was that fans could bear witness to the ball working its way through the hands of Keven Mealamu to Thorn to Mealamu as if they were a world class first and second five-eighths combination.

Jane was not done. He fended off number eight Richard Brown like a blindside flanker as he stormed across, then cut inside Will Genia as he went on to score himself.

The only area of the game that has remained sacrosanct are the scrums and the lineouts. Will Rokocoko and his fellow backs end up crouching, touching and engaging if the current trend continues?

- Herald on Sunday

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