The All Blacks play tests, but they don’t play tests. We used to play whole series (Phillips, Iveco) of not-tests against meaningless nations like Wales or Scotland, who’d left all their best players at home anyway, to warm up for the Tri Nations. This year’s test against Fiji wasn’t a test because it was only Fiji, which made it a training run. The test against ancient foes South Africa wasn’t a test because all their best players were at home doing fark knows what. So, the first *real* test of the season won’t happen until *this* Saturday night against the Aussies. Anyway, all these tests mean nothing because the real test is going to come in the Big Fucking Tournament. Even then, it only really gets going in the quarters, if that. Rugby, eh?
So the would-be test against South Africa was an interesting watch. It seems the tactic of having 18 players vying for the back three is a winner. Disgruntled tweeter Cory Jane suddenly looked like a test player again and Zac Guildford (who has a weird shaped body, according to the females I watched the match with) played bloody well, as did Mils. We’re heading for a selection headache the likes of which Steve Hanson hasn’t seen since the day after Old Boys ‘Vicars and Prostitutes’ themed end of year prizegiving bash in ’85. In the forwards, Andrew Hore played like the Bok pack was made up of seven Mark Hammetts and a fur seal, while the pack as a whole went like a high performance arse kicking machine. I’d characterise the All Blacks performance as ‘fucking impressive’ on the impressive-ometer, especially as we’re still arguably a few guys short of the best XV. The Haka stats from this test are worth a look, as always.
And of course, much of the talk was about the new Adidas jersey. I don’t like it. It’s funny looking. I like the idea of a retro-themed kit (some of my favourite teams have had retro kits), but this is neither one thing or the other, with a collar a mid 90s premiership team would be ashamed of. The super-tight-tube-whatever construction means it’s hard to actually put the thing on, with each All Black requiring three or four other All Blacks’ assistance just to get dressed. There’s a possibility of delayed kick offs due to our national team’s inability to clothe themselves. The challenge of being an All Black is no longer about being worthy of the jersey, it’s whether you’re actually able to put it on.
The other jersey-gate this week was England’s black away jersey, in the biggest attention-seeking move since every single time Clive Woodward opened his mouth. With only nine rugby playing nations, away kits aren’t the money spinners they are in football. Indeed, the sole purpose of international rugby jerseys now seems to be annoying the All Blacks – see France’s deeper shade of blue at the 2007 world cup. Don’t fall for it, New Zealand. Ignore the English black jersey and let’s hope we get to play them in the final, ‘cos black jersey or not, they’re a bit shit at rugby.