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'He should never captain the All Blacks again': NZ leadership guilty in numerous late collapses

By Sam Smith
Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea and Sam Cane approach a line-out for the All Blacks. Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images

The final nine minutes of the All Blacks vs England match have motivated endless criticism from Kiwi pundits. Broadcaster Brendan Telfer has labelled the closing minutes of the All Blacks’ season the worst in decades and called for Sam Whitelock to never captain the side again.

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Telfer has three decades of sports broadcasting experience and leaned on every moment of it to blast the All Blacks, calling out their mental fortitude and leadership as the key issues in an underperforming season which featured several historic losses.

The one positive note Telfer agreed on from the performance was that it would remind the Kiwi faithful that all is not well despite the run of more positive results to end the season.

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Telfer spoke to Martin Devlin on The Platform:

“After a lot of thought and consideration,” Telfer started. “And casting my mind back over the last god knows how many decades, I’ve come to the conclusion the last nine minutes of that match on Sunday morning was the worst nine minutes of rugby the All Blacks have played since 1999 in the meltdown against France in that semi-final down in Cardiff.”

That match saw the All Blacks winning 26-13  with just over 20 minutes to play, but once the 70th minute rolled around, France had scored 26 unanswered points and went on to win 43-31.

However, the final minutes of the Twickenham Test isn’t the only example of the All Blacks dropping off and letting their opposition back in the game this season.

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“We’ve seen it a few times this year, haven’t we?” Telfer continued. “They were up by 18 points against Australia, they conceded 23 unanswered points against Scotland, they allowed the Japanese back into that match a few weeks ago in Tokyo and against South Africa, so it’s not a physical issue with this All Blacks side… it’s the mental capacity.”

The All Blacks’ leadership was then called into question, as the composure of the team crumbled when Beauden Barrett was sent off and England’s attack picked up the intensity.

“Well he should never captain the All Blacks again, I’m sorry. All due respect to Sam Whitelock, great player that he’s been for the All Blacks, fantastic lineout jumper, fantastic player around the field but where was he in those last nine minutes?

“It brings up an interesting question doesn’t it – would they have played out a different nine minutes of rugby if Sam Cane had been on the field?”

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While Cane was present and captain for the Bledisloe Test in Melbourne where the Wallabies launched an epic comeback only to concede a famous timewasting call and have the All Blacks win at the death, the flanker has been absent on the shaky Northern Tour which made up the majority of Telfer’s aforementioned list of 60-70 minute All Black performances in 2022.

The Debate over Cane’s influence as captain was quickly undermined by a more prevalent debate over whether Cane was deserving of a starting role on the team, with Dalton Papali’i impressing throughout the tour.

The in-form Ardie Savea was the next name to feature in the captaincy debate but reports that it was Savea who called for TJ Perenara to box kick late in the Test called into question the dominant No 8’s decision-making.

That decision to kick was seen by Telfer as symbolic of the lack of proper leadership within the All Blacks’ camp.

“I mean I’m still scratching my head and trying to answer this question, why on earth did TJ Perenara put that crazy kick into no man’s land? 78 minutes gone on the clock, you’re up by seven points, it’s on halfway – yeah, I understand what people are saying, they didn’t want to give away a penalty, this guy (the referee) was pinging every maul and every ruck and England (could) get a penalty, kick it down into their 22 and dial up one of their rollover tries from a rolling maul.

“Okay, but if he’s going to kick, why didn’t he kick it deep? So they’re saying to the Englishman ‘you’ve got 100 meters, you’ve got to run some way or another to win this match.’

“(Instead) he gives them a little kick in the middle of between 22 and halfway, (England) runs into open territory, not a black jersey in sight, 30 seconds later they score. It’s the mental decisions they’re making.”

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