Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Weepu's longterm future in doubt

Piri Weepu has not faced many more important tests in his turbulent career. Photo / Getty Images.
Piri Weepu has not faced many more important tests in his turbulent career. Photo / Getty Images.

Piri Weepu has not faced many more important tests in his turbulent career.

He had perfect conditions in Dunedin to show his game had expanded while his frame had shrunk since he was picked on trust, hope and experience in this year's squad.

This was a break Weepu needed, perhaps a last chance to show he could still cut it at this international level before the selectors mulled over ideas about which halfbacks to take on the end of year tour.

He was thrust into the spotlight and into the team when Aaron Smith played up after the bleak test in Wellington.

Smith had a tough night when the Pumas got into him because of his forwards' neglect while Weepu had a better ride when he came on as a sub.

Roles reversed, Weepu made a steady start.

His first stream of passes went to hand and he made the breakdowns. You wondered how his lungs would last but the games slowed in patches and he got some respite.

His first pop kick was a shocker-no chasers and too deep into the Bok 22. Somewhere the communication went awry.

Then Weepu failed to commit to a loose ball and the Boks charge for the All Black line was only thwarted by a botched last pass.

He learned from his previous kick and found a much better box kick for his troops to follow but there was too much general mess around the rucks.

The Boks were very combative and from one of their shortside forays Habana bowled Weepu out of his way.

Later when the All Blacks had built up some steam and put several phases together with some mismatches loomed in midfield, Weepu's clearance from the ruck was upset.

It was that sort of test for him. A few good things but a lack of a sharpness which marred his work and interrupted the flow of his teammates.

Perhaps we should have expected that.

Nothing replaces test time and Weepu had only been used from the bench in six tests this year.

He has never been the most dedicated trainer and while his fitness has no doubt improved his meagre matchplay since June probably told against him.

It was no surprise when Smith came out with the team to start the second half. The All Blacks needed to up their pace and precision and he was an important cog in those plans.

He was defeated in one defensve play but then brought off the sort of snappy evasive run for a try which Weepu could not have emulated.

Weepu's longterm future in black must be in doubt.

His production in the next two offshore tests and the work of rising halfbacks like Tawera Kerr Barlow will be debated even more intently now.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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