Jerome Kaino. Is he still New Zealand’s number 6?
After a momentous effort from the All Blacks against a previously impenetrable Springboks side, there are few questions that need answering. Yes, they haven’t been put under significant pressure in The Rugby Championship. They are building depth across the park. But, and this is a big but, who is the top 6 in the country?
One person who has been taken to Argentina is two-time World Cup winner, Jerome Kaino. Kaino hasn’t featured in the All Black side since the British and Irish Lions Tour, taking time off due to personal issues before the beginning of the Bledisloe Cup.
Since then, New Zealand has seen the likes of rising superstar Vaea Fafita stamp his name against Argentina, almost out of left field. It was a performance that got the rugby world talking. Whilst Scott Barrett and Liam Squire displayed an uncanny physical dominance against South Africa. They out-South African-ed the South Africans.
Whether Kaino, who will turn 35 in 2018, is still the first choice number 6 remains to be seen. Speculation in this area has been rife for some time now. And considering the large surge of blindside talent, there do not look like any guarantees for the veteran.
Can Kaino cement himself as the top number 6?
The All Blacks’ depth at number 6 poses large concerns for Kaino and the future of his All Black career. Fifita, Barrett and Squire all seem like first-up choices for any international side, let alone being home to one. Even more impressively, that isn’t including Ardie Savea’s placemark on the bench or the likes of Akira Ioane or Elliot Dixon waiting in the wings. Each offers valuable skillsets of their own.
So what can Kaino do to establish his position as the top number 6?
Since returning, Kaino has played in the Mitre 10 Cup for Auckland. Kaino featured against a strong Taranaki side and a courageous Southland. Whilst the side conceded a loss to Taranaki 38-49, they were able to clinch a much-needed win against Southland 27-17. Whilst his performance wasn’t incredibly destructive and at times his speed wavered, the towering figure of the 81-cap veteran was unmissable.
Kaino used his physique and strength to his advantage clinching an important try against Southland.
Standing at 1.96m and pushing 109kg, Kaino provides value in both the offensive and defensive departments. He is equipped with a bone-crunching tackle and a powerful attacking stride. While the young ages of Barrett, 23 or Fifita, 25 are important for the All Black future, there is certainly no replacement for his experience, influence and leadership within the group.
The All Blacks will play Argentina in Buenos Aires on October 1st, followed by South Africa in Cape Town.
This will be Kaino’s opportunity to show the world why he is the number one blindside flanker. If Kaino picks up from where he left off and brings the impact as he has done many a time before, there is no doubt Kaino will find himself in the black number 6 jersey again.
Do you agree? Is he still the number one number six in New Zealand? Or, do the All Blacks selectors need to look to the future and utilise Kaino in a mentor role?
Author: Malachai Wylie
Author: Malachai Wylie
Malachai Wylie has been a player, fan, ambassador and sporting fanatic for many years. He is passionate about All Black rugby and the deeply ingrained Rugby culture within New Zealand, and this won’t be going away anytime soon! When he is not watching rugby replays or highlight reels, he spends his time studying towards a degree in Communications. Combining all these together, it’s no wonder the 1014 is his current homepage!