In the rugby world with Super Rugby over, it's now time to turn our attention to the rugby Championship, and I'll try to give Ewen McKenzie some tips for how to beat the All Blacks. Before I do that however, congratulations to the Chiefs for what was one of the best Super Rugby Finals I've ever seen!
The Chiefs beat the Brumbies at home last weekend, gaining back to back Super Rugby titles, a feat only achieved by the Blues, Crusaders and Bulls before.
In the 2012 final, the Chiefs never looked like losing, smashing the Sharks with a dominant romp. In 2013, the Chiefs never looked like winning until the last 10 minutes, a feat that displayed determination, true unity and remarkable coaching that was able to bring injection from the bench at the right time.
I'm not being biased at all (I'm a big Chiefs fan) but this final had everything; a rowdy home crowd, great kicking, terrible kicking, break away tries, try saving tackles, heart in your mouth tension, TMO decisions and a famous come from behind gritty win. The Brumbies will rue the day they let a title slip through their fingers, and the Chiefs will remember the most gruelling, and hard fought courageous performance of their tenor, as they continue to build their Super rugby dynasty.
I shall harp on no further, but as five Chiefs make the All Blacks squad, they'll bring a never say die attitude that is all important to the make-up of any international rugby team. The All Blacks will face Ewen McKenzie's Australian side on the 17th of August in Sydney, and if it's anything like the super rugby final we'll be in for a great show.
It'll be the first of three games that will decide the Bledisloe Cup, something New Zealand has held for ten years. For Australia to have any chance against the best team in the world, they're going to have to hit them where they're vulnerable.
Steve Hansen's team has a youthful look about it, with New Comers Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua from the Blues, along with TJ Perenara from Wellington who is yet to get his first cap. Tawera Kerr-Barlow has only played four times in black, and the front row may contain Dane Coles (6 caps) and Charlie Faumuina (7 caps).
It's clear Steve Hansen has an eye for the future, with the axing of Victor Vito and Piri Weepu, but it may have left some positions with a lack of depth and experience. If Australia is going to triumph in 2013 over Richie McCaw's crew, they'll need to find a chink in the armour, and on paper the All Blacks are certainly weakest in the outside backs.
They have quality players out there, but no real depth. First five Beauden Barret will likely cover wing and Fullback from the bench like he did against France in June, and the Midfield can only call on full back Ben Smith or possibly Dan Carter if Ma' Nonu or Conrad Smith get injured. I'm sure the All Black coaches have a plan, but it seems they're missing a Sonny Bill Williams or Richard Kahui severly. Ryan Crotty, Francis Saili, Tamati Ellison or even Bundi Aki could well feel hard done by.
In the Super Rugby final the Brumbies were clinical in the first half winning their set pieces and they didn't allow the Chiefs to play their natural game. The Wallabies will need to follow suit, and force the All Blacks to slow their game down, and to peg them back into the corners with a kick and chase game. With the All Blacks defending their line, Ewen McKenzie can capitalise by allowing Quade Cooper to play his natural game and put players like Israel Folau or new comer Tevita Kuridrani in some space.
If they can pressure the All Blacks, it's possible their youthful inexperience will allow the Wallabies a foothold. Once the Wallabies get their tails up with a big Sydney crowd behind them they'll be hard to stop. Come August 17, we'll see if Ewen McKenzie can turn the Wallabies fortunes around, he probably can't do much worse than how Robbie Deans performed against the best team in the world.
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Broadcasting Group in Auckland New Zealand.
Brad Mill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/brad-mills.html