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What All Blacks hopeful Cortez Ratima thought after World Cup heartbreak

By Finn Morton
Chiefs Cortez Ratima in action during a Chiefs Super Rugby training session at Chiefs HQ on March 08, 2023 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

With the blow of a whistle, referee Wayne Barns brought an end to last year’s World Cup final in France. For All Blacks fans at the Parisian venue and back in New Zealand, time stood still.

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The Springboks erupted into celebration on the sacred turf of Stade de France while the All Blacks were left to wonder what could’ve been after the agonising 12-11 defeat.

Among those wearing green in the stands – who, just like their rugby heroes, were also lost in a sense of jubilation – supporters in black were left gutted. You could see it on their faces.

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But well beyond the walls of the famed sports venue, all the way back in a small rugby-mad nation at the bottom of the world, All Blacks fans began to process the loss.

With the match getting underway on the morning of October 29, fans were still coming to terms with the undesired defeat by the time lunch was served on a now-historic Sunday in October.

Just like any other All Blacks fan, Test hopeful Cortez Ratima made sure to watch the World Cup final with loved ones – and just like any other All Blacks fan, Ratima was left “gutted.”

Ratima, who was joined by his own young family and his partner’s parents, watched on as Chiefs teammates including Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick were beaten by the Boks.

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“I might have been at home just up early, because it was an early game,” Ratima told RugbyPass. “Just at home watching.

“I was pretty gutted to be honest. We had a few of our Chiefs boys, seniors, probably their last game for the All Blacks and their last shot at a World Cup.

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“Just felt gutted really for the boys. I was definitely supporting them hoping they’d go all the way because man they’re looking good, especially after that Ireland game.

“Just gutted for them really.”

Starting in the No. 9 jumper that night was All Blacks great Aaron Smith. But that was also Smith’s final Test in black which presents other young halfbacks with an opportunity.

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Ratima is widely considered an All Black-in-waiting. With Brad Weber leaving the Chiefs after last season, the 22-year-old is tipped to start for the Chiefs in 2024.

While Cam Roigard and Finlay Christie are still in the mix for national honours after last year’s World Cup, and Folau Fakatava is another potential candidate, Ratima is a chance.

The young scrum-half is firmly focused on taking hold of starting duties at the Chiefs this year, but after that, Ratima will continue to chase the “ultimate goal” with the All Blacks.

“That’s always gonna be the ultimate goal for myself. That’s the pinnacle of New Zealand rugby and where every nine wants to be,” Ratima added.

“I don’t know what you’re doing if you don’t want to be an All Black.

“That’s 100 per cent always the goal heading into this year, also obviously the goals of winning a Super Rugby championship title, being the number nine come round one, they’re all goals.

“Just pretty much gonna do what I can, park them up (and) have them in eyesight but try and live in the now and do what I can and take it one step at a time.”

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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