Andrew Mulligan: It's unfair to compare

Sam Cane's starting spot has come under scrutiny. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sam Cane's starting spot has come under scrutiny. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Yes, we like to compare. And comparisons across eras are even more compelling.

But now the consensus is that eras should not be compared because games have changed. I now see the error of my ways.

The era we're in reminds me of the 1998 rugby season which saw off some of the great All Blacks of that generation: Michael Jones, Sean Fitzpatrick, Frank Bunce and Walter Little.

The All Blacks then went through a rocky phase of adjustment and leadership.

It's better this season because of lessons learned through establishing leadership groups and cultures.

When you lose a player such as Richie McCaw, comparisons with his successors are always going to be made, despite Sam Cane being anointed in 2012.

When the game opens up and the likes of Ardie Savea widens the cracks even more with his running game, the natural reaction is to demand he starts.

The Cane versus Savea debate was a hot topic after the second test but Cane will be starting for a while yet because the All Blacks see Savea's role off the bench as suiting his style.

Cane's job description is different - dominate the tackle, clear the rucks and steal the ball. How demoralising must it be for the opposition to see Savea warm up with half an hour to go?

Third-time NBA champion LeBron James suffers from being compared with the great Michael Jordan, which is tough because it's an era thing as well.

The NBA defences aren't as physical as they were when Jordan played but James still gets hammered to slow him down.

Comparing the two has been an internet favourite since James graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school student and was anointed 'The Chosen One'. Who chose him is hard to tell but Jordan had three years of college basketball before he was drafted and it still took him seven seasons to win his first NBA title.

James took nine seasons to win his first. But Jordan had Scottie Pippen, one of the top 50 players of all time, to do the defensive dirty work. James had Sasha Pavlovic alongside him in his first NBA finals appearance in 2007 and they were swept 4-0.

One stat to consider is that Jordan and James both won their first three championships by the age of 31, James' age now. Jordan's last three came with Pippen and one of the greatest rebounders and defensive players in Dennis Rodman, with all-time great coach Phil Jackson at the helm.

The coaches across the ditch have been incomparable as well.

Michael Cheika's self-deprecating honesty has been completely overshadowed by the defensive masterclass of English coach, former Randwick teammate, and victim Eddie Jones.

It will be good to see whether Steve Hansen or Cheika will take the higher road ahead of the first test in Sydney in August.

My money's on Hansen - his record is incomparable in the professional era.

- NZ Herald

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