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STOP THE JUGGERNAUT

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Coetzee may privately acknowledged that The All Blacks have unearthed the juggernaut that threatens to take the world rugby by storm

Picture: BackpagePix

England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward is as well known for his competitiveness as a player and coach as he is for his caustic wit.

In 1998, he took a young England team on tour to New Zealand. In the first Test they lost 64-22 in Dunedin and at the following week’s press conference in Auckland he said: “Here we are re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic and the All Blacks have just selected it on the left wing!’

He was, of course, talking about Tongan-born Jonah Lomu, the blockbuster who was in the prime of his career after his sensational impact at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

This week Allister Coetzee could raise a wry smile to that comment although his situation this year is different to that of Woodward, who had taken an experimental side to New Zealand while the Boks are on the rise.

But Coetzee would privately acknowledge that yet again the All Blacks have unearthed a juggernaut that threatens to take world rugby by storm.

Anybody who saw how Tonga’s – sorry New Zealand’s flank – Vaea Fifita skinned Argentina’s wing Emiliano Boffelli on the outside to score a sensational and possibly game-breaking try in New Plymouth will know that they saw something special.

The Hurricanes’ opensider is 1.96m and 115kgs (without a centimetre of fat) and has been an express selection by coach Steve Hansen after just a single season of Super Rugby with the Hurricanes.

He is that devastating.

He’s the new Lomu, only he is closer to the action at flank.

Fifita, for the record, came on a Tongan schools tour to New Zealand when he was 18, was immediately talent-spotted and offered a bursary to finish his education in New Zealand.

That is how New Zealand raid the impoverished islands of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.

They spot schoolboy talent, offer educational opportunities, and the rest is history. Don’t let a Kiwi ever tell you that it is anything different. Apart, to be fair, from players that are born in New Zealand of Polynesian descent.

But whether New Zealand are “thieves” is a debate for another column.

The here and now is that this new “freak”, as 1995 England captain Will Carling described Lomu, that can run around wings with ease, will play against the Boks on Saturday, and he has to be contained.

If a press conference quote was proffered from a member of the Bok coaching staff or playing group it would go along the lines of: “We have noted Fifita but we respect all the All Blacks players and we will rather be concentrating on our own game.”

Don’t buy that behind closed doors in the Bok team room, there will be plotting and planning to stop Fifita before he can get up to a gallop, because when he does, he only stops beyond the tryline.

Why did Lomu not score against the Springboks in his career? Because the Boks had a plan to stop him. They spoke about his threat before every game and they made sure they smothered him before he could get up to speed.

And the threat of Fifita will have been a matter of debate in Coetzee’s selection meetings this week.

The injury to Jaco Kriel might well have made Coetzee’s job of selecting a loose trio to contain this threat easier because one way of shutting down Fifita is to stop him at source by picking your burliest possible loose forward combination.

Everybody in world rugby learned from the All Blacks’ series against the British and Irish Lions. You have to stop the Kiwis gaining momentum.

When they build up a number of phases and start running at you in droves, it is matter of time before they score.

Given what Coetzee has at his disposal, the men that could do the job regarding Fifita happen to be twins.

Has Uzair Cassiem done anything wrong at No 8 this season? No. But perhaps this a horses-for courses-game where the muscular, belligerent Du Preez twins can do a job in stopping the All Blacks in their tracks, before they build up a head of steam that gives the likes of Fifita the launching pad to wreak havoc.

This could well be the time to give Daniel du Preez his debut (at No 8), alongside brother Jean-Luc, with Siya Kolisi providing the mobility.