All Blacks: UK rugby author praises Ian Foster and Jason Ryan for beating Springboks
With five losses in the last six Tests, including three straight losses, and unwelcome records, the All Blacks summoned their brilliant best to break their funk and bring the world champions down to earth. Videos / Sky Sports
A British rugby writer has praised Ian Foster and his assistant Jason Ryan for helping lead the All Blacks’ turnaround against the Springboks at Ellis Park.
Rugby journalist Steffan Thomas, writing for The Telegraph, said: “It turns out that the demise of the All Blacks has been greatly exaggerated.”
“Whether that famous win will result in a stay of execution for under-fire head coach Ian Foster remains unclear, but what we do know is that the All Blacks have found a way to win big games again,” Thomas wrote.
“Foster will be happy to claim this remarkable result after so many flak results, but don’t underestimate the impact of new striker guru Jason Ryan.”
Thomas said Ryan was instrumental in improving the All Blacks’ mouth defense and scrum, while Foster’s decision to start inexperienced props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax was a “masterstroke”.
“Despite the 26-10 loss in the first test, New Zealand’s Maul defense was significantly better than the Irish series, but it reached perfection at Ellis Park and was the difference between winning and losing in that friendly.
“The set piece was another area that improved dramatically from the first test and it’s also where Ryan’s fingerprints are all over the place.
“Foster’s decision to let relatively inexperienced props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax do the launches proved to be a masterstroke. From the very first scrum, the All Blacks were rock solid – they wouldn’t budge an inch.”
Thomas also praised All Blacks captain Sam Cane, who he said received “unfair” criticism, for his performance in the second Test breakdown.
“While in the past it may have been an individual player’s job to win sales, it’s now much more of a collective effort, which is why pinning all the blame on Cane was ridiculous.
“New Zealand were unable to stem South Africa’s attacking ball in the first Test but the selection of physical Shannon Frizell aided Cane’s efforts in the collapse. Cane has been very effective in slowing down the Springboks in that area and the Chiefs man is a player who does the invisible dirty work that rarely leads to praise.”
Thomas called Richie Mo’unga, who got his first starting role with the All Blacks at Ellis Park, “world class” and “better outside half” than Beauden Barrett.
“The omission of Richie Mo’unga for the Ireland series and the first South African Test would have stunned those who consistently follow both Super Rugby and the All Blacks. Up to this point, Foster had remained loyal to the volatile Beauden Barrett: There’s no doubting Barrett’s ability as a rugby player, but Mo’unga is the better outside half. A volatile talent himself, the Crusaders’ playmaker is in many ways a carefree spirit, but he has a better balance in his game and can also be pragmatic when needed.
“He’s an incredible talent who can make impossible things possible, but it’s his decision making, his game management and the balance in his game of when to attack and when to be careful that has catapulted him to the world class.”
Thomas also believed the All Blacks had managed to turn the Springboks’ kicking game into a weakness thanks to the work of Will Jordan and Jordie Barrett under high ball.
“It was obvious the Springboks thought the New Zealand back three would be suspicious under the high ball. In both Tests, the World Champion used the rather unusual tactic of the number 9 betting on long ups and downs deep in the New Zealand half. That worked well last weekend, but this time it backfired.
“Will Jordan was great under the high ball, as was Jordie Barrett, and the All Blacks not only dealt with the ups and downs, they were able to turn them into attacking opportunities.
“The Springboks ran out of ideas and were overtaken in the course of the 80 minutes.”