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Wed Apr 23 16:05:25 SAST 2014

Fans in a frenzy as Henry and De Villiers seem to lose the plot?

Liam Del Carme | 18 September, 2011 07:570 Comments

With the rugby world's 20 top nations assembled in their back yard, even rugga-mad New Zealanders succumbed to temporary amnesia, lapsing, albeit fleetingly, into their parochial ways.

The Kiwis have made a real attempt to embrace the world (and visitors in Wellington in particular) but travellers here have at times been exposed to the odd experience which reminds you that you are 10 time zones away.

Take the front page lead story in Friday's New Zealand Herald, for instance. "Warning flash - speed cop pounces" the national paper's main headline cried. In a story that will resonate with many South Africans, a Taupo man who flashed headlights to warn an oncoming driver of a speed camera was pulled over.

It is apparently against the law to do this and the offence carries a NZ$150 fine, although police here say the law is used sparingly.

We may have a different sense of news but what South Africans and Kiwis share is a dim view of World Cup failure.

Like the Taupo driver, Bok and All Black supporters take it upon themselves to warn of impending peril when our national teams are speeding towards the cliff. Graham Henry, the All Blacks' long-time coach, may have a win ratio of 84% coming into the World Cup, but he hasn't been spared about what the road ahead may hold.

The locals are in a flat spin over Ted's (Henry's nickname) preoccupation with changing his side. He has been ringing the changes this year and there is growing anxiety that Uncle Ted is losing the plot, in much the same way he mislaid it in back in 2007.

The main accusation against him is that, as chief selector, (admittedly from a vast sea of talent) he does not know what his best starting XV is.

He is vacillating between Mils Muliaina and rising star Israel Dagg at fullback, he can't seem to settle on a midfield combination, with Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Richard Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams leading contenders, and he plays musical chairs with Piri Weepu, Jimmy Cowan and Andy Ellis at scrumhalf.

Injuries have, of course, bedevilled whatever plans he may have of ruling the roost.

The All Blacks might look like a settled team but matters took a turn for the worse when Richie McCaw, Muliaina and Dagg were forced to join Dan Carter and Kieran Read on the sidelines for Friday's 83-7 win over Japan.

The Springboks, too, will do well to heed the warning signs. Well before the World Cup, John Smit's suitability as captain was called into question and the team's performance against Wales only served to further magnify the problem coach Peter de Villiers has caused for himself.

It is now clear that Bismarck du Plessis should be in the starting line-up. Former England lock and Sunday Telegraph correspondent Paul Ackford was blunt on Friday: "Smit is finished, even if he is reluctant to acknowledge the fact himself," Ackford wrote in the Herald. He suggested De Villiers should pose the question: who of Smit and Du Plessis is the better hooker? His view should not be blurred by questions like who might be the most articulate or best leader. "My bet is," Ackford wrote of De Villiers, "deep down he knows the answer."

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Fans in a frenzy as Henry and De Villiers seem to lose the plot?

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Wed Apr 23 16:05:25 SAST 2014 ::

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