Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Hansen's team keep doing the impossible

If you sit down and look at their game closely, you are constantly amazed. Photo / Photosport
If you sit down and look at their game closely, you are constantly amazed. Photo / Photosport

What a performance from the All Blacks; the Springboks were completely over-run in the second half. But the foundations for this famous victory were built before the break, when the visitors made a few mistakes but still forced the Boks to tackle their hearts out.

When you ask the opposition to come up with tackle after tackle, eventually you will finish them off, and those two tries the All Blacks scored through Israel Dagg and TJ Perenara came through hard graft. Perenara's came after the All Blacks held possession for 20 phases.

I have so much admiration for this All Blacks team. They make me proud. Why? Because they never waiver from what they do, no matter the circumstances. They dismantled the Springboks by playing with ambition. Even when the score was close, they stuck to what they know they're good at. On the flipside, the Boks looked like schoolboys, at times.

Tactically, the Boks looked unsure of what they wanted to do, and because of that they resorted to their kick-first mentality.

Bryan Habana, who has scored more than 60 tries in tests, must be eternally frustrated.

The way the All Blacks defend, coming forward with purpose and looking to stop the opposition in its tracks, means their opponents have to work for every single metre.

And that's what is equally as impressive as their attack; what they are doing without the ball. I make no bones about it, I feel disappointed at the way the Boks are playing.

For me, it would have been better had they lost by 50 points, playing with ambition. They had to use the ball. But they didn't have that intent at all and that, to me, is a shame. They're a more positive rugby-playing nation than that.

Again, we saw a big impact from the All Blacks bench. What I like, in particular, is how flexible the players are. They simply adapt. Israel Dagg is a fullback but he looks every bit a world-class wing. When they bring Lima Sopoaga on and Beauden Barrett moves to fullback, with Ben Smith to wing, they don't miss a beat. Liam Squire is a No8 playing on the blindside flank, but they are so in tune with what they want to do, it doesn't matter if they have to swap position.

The All Blacks are playing with such skill and freedom, you sometimes don't realise how they are pushing the limits of what is achievable. They make it look so easy; guys like Brodie Retallick with a step, fend and offload; the way Dane Coles plays, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read - the skills they have, the bursts and passes. Any other team in the world would kill for that skill set.

If you sit down and look at their game closely, you are constantly amazed. The flipside is that you expect them to do that. That is how high the expectation is. But they live it up to it and it's amazing to watch.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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