The All Blacks recent Bledisloe victory over Australia at Eden Park confirmed two things; Daniel Carter is back to his sublime best and it will take something special from either Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade or Lima Sopoaga to knock him off the pecking order leading into the World Cup playoff stages.
What also stood out from the All Black demolition was the comfort of seeing Ma’a Nonu grind and smash his way through the hapless Wallabies. There may be a bit of bias seeping through here, but ever since watching the mascara eyed Nonu play for Wellington Lions and the Hurricanes, I have always seen him as a destructive player that can win a game by himself.
However, my Cantabrian relatives are always quick to remind me of his tendency to have the odd brain explosion. Not this year though.
Nonu has demonstrated an all round game that has seen him play with a sense of calmness and purpose which has allowed him to become arguably the best International inside centre in the game. This stems from the fact that he is back home in Wellington with the wind at his back and his family and friends by his side (aka Conrad Smith), which has allowed him to play some of the best rugby of his career, while at the same time casting aside those memories of the poisonous Hammet saga.
The other side of the ledger and the code hopping superstar that every Bulldog fan loves to hate is the man himself – Sonny Bill Williams.
This bloke has the athletic physique that most can only dream of. He has an offload that has us gobsmacked every time he decides to pull it out, and he is genuinely a great bloke that is no doubt very successful in everything he puts his mind to.
Everything apart from surpassing the “Skuxx” himself, Ma’a Nonu.
Now many would probably disagree with me, but I believe that Sonny is literally out of his league playing for the All Blacks. Yes, he looked fantastic playing against mediocre international teams like Argentina and Samoa earlier this year, but when you put him up against the heavy weights in the form of the Wallabies and Springboks – who pull out consistent defensive barrages – he goes missing.
Take the All Blacks loss to Australia in Bledisloe 1 for what you like, but Sonny, for me, was the worst player on the field.
He ran far too high and he looked lost both offensively and defensively. Bring in Ma’a Nonu a week later and he just oozes class. The All Blacks go from looking like headless chooks one week, to a team playing with so much confidence they would make Kanye West look humble.
Now obviously we can’t blame that Rugby Championship title loss solely on SBW, but what Nonu brings to the best side on the planet is his ability to get the black tide rolling forward, which in turn allows Carter to flourish and also provides much needed space for stars like Ben Smith and the hot stepping Nehe Milner Skudder to dance around defenders.
What I would like to see leading into the Rugby World Cup playoff stages is for coach Hansen and his men to not only play their top side from the get go, but also to stamp their authority on the rest of the world with spectacular performances. This will only happen if they pick players in form, and when we analyze the second five position, Nonu takes that slot without question.
What will help aid Nonu’s relentless dedication to the Adidas embroided All Blacks quest in lifting the William Webb Ellis for the third time is the carrot of playing 100 black jersey tests, while also maintaining a performance that us as fans have taken somewhat for granted since he made his debut in 2003, for the fact that he makes things look so damn easy.