Rugby: Make no mistake, Brett has All Black shot

By Gregor Paul

Stephen Brett is working to eradicate errors from his game. Photo / Getty Images
Stephen Brett is working to eradicate errors from his game. Photo / Getty Images

The dark horse that is Stephen Brett plans to use this week and hopefully next to make a late run for All Black selection.

Win a title with the Blues and what more could he do? History is his friend in this regard - no team has ever won the competition with an iffy No 10.

The list of champions can't be contested: Carlos Spencer, Andrew Mehrtens, Stephen Larkham, Daniel Carter and Morne Steyn.

National interest in the never-ending quest to find a first five who doesn't wilt in Dan Carter's shadow jumped last week when Stephen Donald was eliminated as a contender.

Maybe the All Black selectors really are focusing on just two men now - Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade - but neither is involved in the playoffs. Slade isn't even fit to play yet and Brett, perhaps the deluded optimist, doesn't feel the door has been shut on him yet.

All Blacks are made in pressure rugby. Those who can elevate their game to a higher level emanate a sense of destiny; that international rugby is their calling.

Brett's game is always difficult to evaluate. He's error-prone, not riddled, just likely to commit one if not two disastrous acts per game. The human mind tends to have a better recall capacity for the negative - which is why there is not wider appreciation for the other side of Brett's portfolio.

His running game continues to be as good, if not better than Cruden's. His kicking out of hand is longer and, in the current climate of first fives being auxiliary fullbacks, Brett leads the way on that score, too.

It's those errors that make everyone nervous, especially so when the All Black coaches continually emphasise the point of this talent show, this first five idol concept, is to have a man ready to play in the knockout rounds of the World Cup.

Is that really Brett? The Blues' next game will provide the answer, although one thing already established is that he's impressed with his mental resolve. He doesn't go missing. His mistakes take chips rather than chunks out of his confidence and in some ways, his high error count is testament to his courage.

Others make a mistake, climb into their shell and tentatively plod through the rest of the game. Not Brett - he stays true to his conviction that he's there to make a difference.

"It's hard to hide at 10. I do get a bit disappointed and stuff. In this sort of rugby, you have got to flush it and carry on with the next task. I have some good leaders on the field here and if I do something wrong, Kevvie [Keven Mealamu] comes straight up to me and tells me to get rid of it and just think about the next task.

"That's the one thing I am always working on - just getting rid of it and being calm and collected because you need to be at No 10."

Still, the preference would be for him to not have anything to bounce back from and his personal fortunes as well as the Blues' collective hopes hang on his ability to this week deliver the perfect game.

That's a big ask but he says he's been buoyed by the faith shown in him by coach Pat Lam.

Lam is now convinced Brett is the right choice to steer the team after the 25-year-old ran things impressively against the Highlanders in the final round-robin game and then against the Waratahs on Friday night.

"Last week [Highlanders game] was the first game that I haven't had a mistake in my whole career," says Brett. "I am doing a lot more visualisation before games and that is really helping.

"I have been involved in a few finals game with the Crusaders and I will draw from those experiences. I need to look back at the things that I didn't do in those games and get that right."

What Brett will ignore is the prospect of this being his last game with the Blues. He'll try not to dwell on that same fact the following week, should they make it that far. His future depends entirely on All Black selection. If he makes the cut, he'll stay. If he doesn't, he'll be heading offshore.

"I would love to stay around," he says. "But that is up to the three wise men. If I get the call-up, I will definitely be staying around but I am here to win with the Blues first and if things happen, they happen. That will all come out in due course. I definitely have something [offshore] I can go to."

- Herald on Sunday

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 30 Jul 2014 05:26:52 Processing Time: 350ms