Dan Carter stands proudly with Jonah Lomu, Richie McCaw, Sean Fitzpatrick and Colin Meads among the All Blacks’ top 10 players of all time. For many, Carter is far and away New Zealand Rugby’s greatest pivot.
Usually when such influential playmakers depart the scene, a drought follows due to the difficulty of finding someone, anyone, who can fill the void. Every alternative is compared unfavourably with the immortal who has left, and so suffer.
But with Carter, the succession planning has been a case of successful planning to the extent that the replacement could even soon topple the king as the superior No. 10 New Zealand has fielded in 114 years of international competition.
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Barrett’s Test record is overwhelming, enjoying a 93 percent success rate with 45 wins and a draw from his 49 Test appearances. Carter’s was pretty handy as well — 89 percent from 99 wins and a draw from 112 Tests.
While Carter was forever poised, Barrett has that touch of derring-do, often astounding all with his ability to constantly break the line, and make penetrating, often game-changing, 40-50 metre bursts that regularly lead to tries. These are just some of Barrett’s many attributes, which comes from his enjoyment in standing close to the gain-line, and not hiding deep in the characteristic No. 10 pocket.
At provincial level, like Carter with the Crusaders, Barrett has been instrumental in transforming the Hurricanes into an enlightening, innovative, state-of-the-art outfit. As well, they are a winning unit, defending their 2016 Super Rugby title with such panache this season. They have kept their foot firmly on the accelerator.
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So far this season, Barrett has been involved in 11 try assists, scored three tries himself, beaten 27 defenders and gained 569 metres for the Hurricanes.
For a bewildered Australian, completely infuriated by watching deadbeat performances such as those by the Waratahs and the Reds, it comforts the soul to know one’s faith in rugby is rewarded when observing New Zealand’s Super Rugby contingent — particularly Barrett’s Hurricanes — who show there is still a dollop of magic and mystery in the 15-man game. And for any aspiring No 10 wanting to know how to make a difference, all they need to do is watch a replay of Friday’s Hurricanes performance against the Brumbies in Napier.
This was a master class. Other Hurricanes may have scored the tries, but it was Barrett who was central to their 56-21 victory as he showed off his vast repertoire of tricks. No wonder he earned selection in our New Zealand Team of the Week.
Beauden Barrett has the ball on a string with the Hurricanes this season. Kerry Marshall/Getty Images
First up, he sucked in three Brumbies defenders — centre Tevita Kuridrani, No. 8 Jarrad Butler and winger James Dargaville — with a sideways snipe before passing inside to centre Vince Aso, who had open space to jig and score the Hurricanes first try.
The second came from a beautifully directed cross-field kick to winger Cory Jane, who leaped over Brumbies fullback Aidan Toua to score.
The third came from another cross-field kick that was tapped by No 8 Blade Thomson near the sideline to Aso for another seven-pointer.
The fourth involved a dummy cut pass that enabled Aso to enjoy a try-scoring hat-trick, and their last try came from yet another Barrett cross-field kick — this time retrieved and finished off by centre Ngani Laumape.
Overall a handy evening’s entertainment, which also included him doing his fair share of defensive work, several dances through the opposition line, a skilful ball pick up off the damp ground, and sneaky passes here and there. At least he wasn’t bothered by goal-kicking duties, with younger brother Jordie taking over and succeeding with all seven of his conversions.
If this continues, the Hurricanes appear destined to enjoy another Super Rugby title, just as long as they can keep the similarly energetic Crusaders and Chiefs at bay.
Barrett will also have to prove himself at another level — as the All Blacks’ No. 10 jersey when he confronts the British & Irish Lions over three Tests in June and July. This series will define Barrett, and go some way in determining whether he is in the same category as Carter — or even better than Carter.
Beauden Barrett has scored three tries and set up 11 this season. Hannah Peters/Getty Images
So far so good.
Lions coach Warren Gatland knows Barrett is a serious worry, and like any other wily Kiwi he has quickly determined that mind games may bring such a danger down. That’s the motivation behind Gatland saying a few days ago: “Beauden Barrett is not kicking goals at the moment, and it is one area which could be a point of difference. We will have four or five of the best goal kickers in the world.”
If goal kicking does become a problem, the solution is simple. Bring in bro Jordie. He certainly looks like an All Black.
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