Christopher Reive analyses the Blues' signing of Dan Carter - and why fans shouldn't set their expectations that high.
What does it all mean?
Rugby needed a hero – and the Blues called the man with the largest gravitational pull in New Zealand rugby who, as luck would have it, was out of a job. But Carter, who joins the team as an injury replacement player, isn't going to be match fit. "I haven't played rugby for several months so it will be a few weeks before I am ready to play," he said, "and then only if my form warrants it." Even without lacing up the boots, Carter draws interest; people are going to talk about this signing – positively or negatively – and in doing so continue to spread word about the competition. The more fans watching, the better it is in the long run. But Blues fans, try not to get your hopes up about the potential of a Barrett/Carter combination – the path only leads to hurt and disappointment.
We can all be nostalgic for a simpler time. A time when a worldwide pandemic hadn't halted sport; a time when New Zealand stood atop the World Rugby rankings; a time when Carter was hailed as the world's greatest rugby player. But Carter, now 38, will return to Super Rugby for the first time since 2015 after plying his trade around the globe. Joining Racing 92 in France following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Carter started with a bang but struggled with form after a year and at one point was booed off the pitch by the team's fans. Remember the good days, sure, but be realistic.
After making a living playing a highly physical game like rugby, your body is going to show the impact of it sooner or later. Just earlier this year, Carter was in a neck brace while recovering from surgery. The two-time World Cup winner went under the knife to repair a cervical spine problem which saw him miss out on a contract with Racing 92 due to a failed physical exam. He has also had several other serious injuries through his career, including an Achilles tendon tear, groin tears and an ACL tear. Full credit for him to being committed to staying in the game, though.
How many first fives does one team need?
Beauden Barrett, Otere Black, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer and now Dan Carter. Bit of a logjam, isn't it?
Perofeta emerged as a handy choice at fullback earlier in 2020, with Black donning the No 10 jersey and Plummer getting a run in the midfield. Now that Barrett is ready for action, surely he gets the No 10 spot. Even with Perofeta ruled out of most of the season now due to a foot injury, where does that leave Carter? When news broke, there were many speaking about the signing as if he was going to come in and get the No 10 jersey from the get-go, with Barrett shifting to fullback, but that seems unlikely.
Other fullback options include, but are not limited to, Matt Duffie, Plummer and Black.
Anyone expecting Carter to return to a competition solely made up of local derbies and play near the same level as when he was last in New Zealand will be disappointed; those expecting him to play big minutes even more so. Let him teach the young(er) players the ways of the force, give the fans five minutes of Carter off the bench and be done with it.