Richard Loe on rugby
Richard Loe is a former All Black

Richard Loe: Pack led from front when it counted

Inspiring: Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty
Inspiring: Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty

The core reason behind last night's All Blacks victory was the performance of the forwards and Israel Dagg.

Richie McCaw's leadership was inspirational. He got right into his work, tackling Boks everywhere, as did Liam Messam and Kieran Read. Everything they did was deliberate and seemed to make a difference. McCaw backed it up by carrying well and breaking clear through tackles.

The tight five deserve credit too. Andrew Hore played well but Keven Mealamu brought something extra with his impact after 50 minutes. Just keep those two competing against each other. Luke Romano excelled again but the team lost nothing with Brodie Retallick coming on. All three locks had good games. Sam Whitelock must have listened to Steve Hansen when he mentioned why he was left out.

I was less impressed with taking Owen Franks off and putting Charlie Faumuina on. Faumuina's not at test standard yet and I think Ben Franks can feel a bit hard done by.

Out in the backs, Dagg showed some classy touches. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with him because there's the odd occasion you'd like to see him do something more traditional, or less controversial, but at the same time, I'd hate to stamp out his flair. Trust him to be on the end of that move where they scored the try. There must have been three or four cracking offloads in that. Sonny Bill's definitely left a legacy.

Ma'a Nonu also impressed with how he broke tackles, given limited attacking opportunities. Aaron Smith added something, too. I hope he didn't dawdle home late or do anything untoward last night. We need him.

Another star was the indoor stadium. The only other time I'd visited was when South Canterbury played North Otago when there were 37 people in the crowd. It was great to be in a packed house.

As for the Springboks, Morne Steyn seemed to suffer the same breeze as Jonny Wilkinson at the World Cup in Dunedin last year. The groundsman must have left the door open on the south-western side. I don't recall how many he missed, but it seemed like a few easy ones. Even if he had put a couple of those over, they would have been up going into halftime and it could've changed the state of the game.

They also bumbled a try-scoring opportunity in the corner which could've tied it up late in the second half.

The Springboks looked like they didn't have the ability to finish things off. In a tight game that's crucial. It's hard to be critical of them when you're not close to the camp but I felt they could select more players from form teams in the Super 15 like the Stormers.

- Herald on Sunday

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