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Richard Kahui understands the thinking behind Stevenson's omission

By Ned Lester
Braydon Ennor of the Crusaders attempts to secure the ball during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on April 29, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ian Foster shocked New Zealand rugby fans on Sunday when form fullback Shaun Stevenson’s name was not read out in the All Blacks‘ Rugby Championship squad, only later revealing that Stevenson would join the team as injury cover for Mark Telea.

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That lands Stevenson in the position of having just a few remaining opportunities to impress All Black selectors. One will of course be Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific grand final and the others will be inside All Blacks camp. Stevenson and other All Black hopefuls will also likely suit up for the NPC season which starts one month before the World Cup.

Stevenson’s omission has been met with disbelief after the Chiefs star dazzled throughout 2023’s Super Rugby Pacific to build on wildly impressive campaigns with the All Blacks XV and Maori All Blacks in 2022.

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The reasoning Ian Foster provided was based on Stevenon’s defence, which the coach admitted had improved this season but still left more to be desired.

Former Chiefs teammate and All Black Richard Kahui offered his perspective on the selection debate.

“If you take it off just what he’s done this year, he’s probably done enough to make the squad,” Kahui told The Platform.

“But, taking everything into account it’s a World Cup year, this team’s been building for four years now to get here and it’s not uncommon to see coaches stick with at least a big core for who they’ve taken and I think those outside backs for the All Blacks, there’s a number of guys that have been there the last few years and that have performed.

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“So on his form, yep, he definitely could have made the All Blacks but I think just being the year it is – the good thing for Shaun is he is playing well enough to make it so if he can put another year like that in next year and the year after, he could be a long term All Black.”

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Stevenson’s future in rugby isn’t a guarantee though, after his form in 2022 went unrewarded by All Black selectors there were rumours a code-switch could be on the table. Stevenson would later confirm he had been approached by the NRL’s Redcliffe Dolphins but was committed to seeing out his current contract which ends in 2023.

Stevenson will no doubt have a strong influence over the Chiefs’ final match of the year. All Black selectors made no secret of the emphasis placed on performances in the Super Rugby playoffs, noting how it provides the best insight into how players perform under the pressure of the bright lights.

“The door’s not completely shut,” Kahui continued. “He’s got a big game this weekend and the All Black coaches will be watching.

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“If you can go out there and perform, it probably gives them that confidence to say ‘hey, actually I am ready and I can play the big games.'”

The final may well be the biggest game of Stevenson’s career given the circumstances. The 26-year-old’s flashes of brilliance on the international stage in 2022 were promising signs of how his Super Rugby form may translate for the All Blacks.

That continuation of form from Super Rugby to international is no easy task, as countless players of the past have discovered the hard way. Kahui reaffirmed that message: “When you get to that international stage and you get to World Cups it’s a whole different kettle of fish.”

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27 Comments
G
G 392 days ago

Hopefully Stevenson hs a chat with razor and understand that Foster's dick head selections will end soon and in 2024 will a different team with high (usual) standards vs excuses

H
HardYakka 392 days ago

The list of players who have shined in fast-and-loose super rugby and failed to stand up at test level is a long one. Players proven at test level as fullbacks who are already in ABs squad are D Mackenzie, B Barrett and J Barrett. Hard not to see D Mac used at fb to get him on the park with Mounga at 10. W Jordan is only on the verge of establishing himself at test fullback and will do well to get some games there in rugby Championship. Even Mounga has been ok when he has deputised there. That's a lot of players to leapfrog in a RWC year. At least Stevenson has a shot by squeezing into the squad for now. And with injuries who knows...

T
Thomas 393 days ago

Favoritism, politics, connections.. yeah that stuff will lose you a RWC.

m
mikejjules 393 days ago

Off contract after 23 go abroad for 2 seasons

D
Danny 393 days ago

The problem is there is so much great talent at fullback and wing. Does Stevenson deserve to be in the team absolutely, he has he has been one of the highest try scores in the team and he judgement on the field is superb and has earned his right to tryout for the All Blacks. Barrett on the other hand has had a shocking season and is still picked, why, his positional kicking is terrible and he kicks to much.
We have one of the best Rugby backlines in the world and we kick the ball away aimlessly to the opposition- the kicks are 50/50 at best. Pick on form not on pass form years ago.

J
Jen 393 days ago

Fozzie’s reasoning is inconsistent and flimsy as. It’s just a terrible decision and I hope that Razor is having sneaky convos with Shooter to let him know that he needs him to stick around for 2024. If Shaun heads offshore next year, I’m going to be irate.

J
Jmann 393 days ago

Why would any half decent rugby player even bother going to league? Stevenson could be a global superstar. In league he gets to play in oz... yawn

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Greg 393 days ago

Great to see Will notionally picked as a fullback at last. But if Shaun's omission is because Beauden covers fullback then Fossie's reasons for omitting Shaun just don't stand up. Beauden got through one Super game with zero tackles and has looked shy in contact and under the high ball. Great rationale Fossie - thanks for sharing.

f
frandinand 393 days ago

The selection of Clarke and the non selection of Stevenson perfectly illustrates Fosters addiction to players who star in the highlights reel.

O
Otagoman II 393 days ago

Not sure if I agree with Kahui here. There are one or two outside backs picked who have a weakness in defence. If I recall it was a reason why Jordan previously was not considered for fullback as he had work-ons in defence. Looking at the squad it would seem Jordan is favoured to be 15 now. Clarke has still not improved his defence.

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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