The lesson that can be learned from the 'phenomenal' Ethan Blackadder
Blackadder was among the standouts in just his fifth test, and only his second start at international level, as the All Blacks completed back-to-back victories over Los Pumas with a 36-13 win over the Argentines in Brisbane.
Despite his match-high penalty count, Blackadder was arguably the busiest player on the park as he chalked up 11 carries, three offloads, 11 tackles, three lineout wins and one turnover to continue their undefeated run through the Rugby Championship.
The 26-year-old’s immense output in all facets of the game marked his continual rise through the ranks after he was handed his first All Blacks cap in July on the back of a superb Super Rugby campaign with the Crusaders.
Such a performance could lead to speculation over whether Blackadder, the son of ex-All Blacks captain Todd, will feature in this week’s heavyweight bout against the Springboks as the All Blacks aim to clinch the Rugby Championship title for the first time in three years.
Blackadder faces tough competition for a place in this week’s match day squad given the prominence of Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Luke Jacobson this season, but his recent performance certainly warrants consideration for selection.
Regardless of whether he plays the reigning world champions in Townsville on Saturday, his efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by Feek, who told reporters on Sunday that Blackadder’s rapid rise is a testament of his unrelenting work rate.
“One of the things for him, and it’s a real good lesson for all young, aspiring All Blacks out there, is how much work he puts into learning his role,” Feek, a former 10-test All Blacks prop, said.
“I know that sounds like a bit of a cliche, but it’s diving into it and diving into it and he’s so clear about what he wants to do. He never stops working with that, he’s always doing extras.
“Whether it’s little micro things around whether it’s around offloading or jackling the ball or carrying the ball, he’s so studious with what he does and I think what you’re seeing on the paddock is the direct reflection of the work that he’s put in.
“I know his old man and his family and everyone watching will be extremely proud of that. The work he’s put in is phenomenal. A lot of respect for that.”
Feek added that Blackadder’s massive inner drive is reflected in the way in which he plays and trains, as the back rower left no blade of grass uncovered against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium.
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“You can see that part of that is there’s just a lot of drive, internal drive, but I just think he’s loving what he does and you can’t take that away from your motivation,” he said.
“If you love what you do, you just don’t want to stop, like you say… When you know your role, you can enjoy it more, and that probably ties in with that.”
Blackadder’s relentlessness around the park could be of significant benefit for the All Blacks if they do choose to pick him against the Springboks, whose form has wallowed after successive defeats against the Wallabies over the past fortnight.
The success of a series win over the British and Irish Lions last month now feels like an eternity ago as the South Africans found themselves in a rut against the Australians, whose attacking style of play was enough to run the conservative Springboks off their feet over the weekend.
Losing the Mandela Challenge Plate for the first time in three years has left the Springboks licking their wounds as they head into their 100th test against the All Blacks at Queensland Country Bank Stadium this weekend, but Feek is guarding against complacency in the lead-up to the blockbuster clash.
“There’s a lot of history with the Springboks and the All Blacks and I’m pretty excited to have my first with the All Blacks against them. I know the boys will be up for this. We need to be pretty clinical, very clinical, actually, to match them.
“Obviously their set piece, their scrum and maul are two of their x-factor parts of their games, so we’re fully aware of that.
“What do we need to do? We need to make sure we get ourselves right first. We always look at the opposition and, with South Africa, we’ve always respected them, so that’s probably the key, really, getting ourselves right and going up another gear from the weekend.”
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