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By Lee Stace

IT APPEARS as if All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is leaning heavily towards a Sonny Bill Williams-Ma’a Nonu midfield combination for the first two Rugby Championship tests.

However, it is doubtful whether that is going to bear any significant fruit in the matches against Australia.

As individuals, both players are destructive. They are big, strong and ooze line-breaking ability.

Collectively, though, they are too similar and will offer no variation in the All Blacks’ midfield. Put simply, you can have one of them, but not both.

A quick glance over some of the successful midfield pairings in the history of the game – think Tim Horan and Jason Little and Walter Little and Frank Bunce – and you will see the key to their success was the differing skillsets their sum components brought to the mix.

Their combinations were built around the power and strength of one and the guile and ball skills of the other.

Variety, it seems, is the essential spice when it comes to world-class midfield pairings.

The Williams-SBW tandem could interchange between the centre and second five spots during the game, which would confuse the opposition and offer different points of attack.

However, although the powerful punch that both have in the midfield makes them difficult to contain, particularly off quick ruck ball, it also makes them easier to read on defence. The opposition will know that they look to use their size to get over the advantage line and devise strategies to combat that.

You need more than just strength to get over the advantage line.

Williams and Nonu have combined once before, against England in 2010. That day they struggled to make the impact many had anticipated they would because they ran the same lines and did the same things.

Unless one of them alters their game slightly, it seems the result will be similar this time around.

Posted Comments

ray allen
For those who can remember further back than a few months will know Nonu did the job consistently for Wellington running off the unload from a certain All Black captain.
vic liddicoat
Surely the issue is who would you put at 13 defensively? I would not be a fan of this combo - much prefer to see a genuine centre fill the spot.
Dave Mitchell
Nonu is a greedy player, more so if there is a smell of a gap he will have a go all the time. This is easy to foil by setting the trap as there are men outside who will suffer as he gets clobbered. S.B.W and the Nonu mix is a very bad recipe. We have players who can beat Australia and the Yarpies without these two, so let us blood them in now. Too many predictable players are still being picked by a certain Auckland selector and I predict that the All Blacks are in for a torrid time.
Ramage
Lets see what happens. These are only the opinions of a hack journalist and we know how often these hacks, when not hacking into other people's phones and emails, are so often wrong.
Ian Wilson
let them have a go but for f'''''''ks sake dont let them try and kick the ball cheers GO BLACKS
carole
Ma'a is the man,i am with the last poster on this one
Mark Brown
leaving the hype away from sbw, who is the better player?
Steve
I disagree. If you have watched both players since the world cup. they have not been used a s battering rams as many think. Nonu's distribution game is exemplary but often gets over looked because he breaks the line often. The only issue I see is that occasionally SBW gets lost. But there is plenty of experience around him. I think I'd rather have this paring than any thing the other teams may come up with.
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