Nuggety half doesn't need a break

BAD MOVE: Why was Aaron Smith pulled near the end of the game when he was playing so well?
BAD MOVE: Why was Aaron Smith pulled near the end of the game when he was playing so well?

There was no need to rustle off our halfback Aaron Smith in the first test on Saturday.

He was close to being the All Blacks' best player and yet there seemed to be a rush to give TJ Perenara his first cap.

Substitutions often seem to be painting by numbers, shunting on a benchman more in hope than in logic.

"Hello, time's up, off he goes."

It's like sending on fresh troops with two minutes to run.

It is almost ordained that Smith be whisked off after about 60 minutes. Jamie Joseph does it to Smith down at the Highlanders in almost every game and, in the interests of assisting Japanese rugby, he brings on Fumiaki Tanaka.

Joseph must appreciate he has arguably the world's No 1 halfback in his team and this is not Saturday Morning rugby where kids take turns.

When players are clearly knackered, according to those GPS gadgets they wear, then fresh legs are justified. But Smith is a halfback buzzing with ionic energy.

Pommie scribes are claiming hooker Dane Coles is the All Blacks' scrummaging weakness. When he was subbed off on Saturday and Keven Mealamu came on, it worked because the scrum stopped disintegrating.

If players are on the bench, it is presumably because they are not good enough to force their way into the starting XV.

It was just as risky throwing on Malakai Fekitoa for his debut cap and just as barmy when the Poms hauled off Freddie Burns.

The opposite seemed to be the case when coach Chris Boyd held off flinging on his shock troops in the New Zealand under-20s meltdown against the South Africans who were playing a virtual home game at Albany. With the Kiwi scrum and lineout being destroyed, only late in the game did reinforcements arrive, like giant Manawatu prop Tim Cadwallader.

Harking back to halfbacks, Andy Ellis must have committed a major felony to not even be rated among the top few halfbacks.

His only role in the test match was on the TV commentary.

No-one knows why he is on the outer, least of all Ellis who says he hasn't been told, which is a bit rich. The age of 30 is not ancient for a halfback.

Obviously coach Hansen wants to build depth, but when Ellis is patently better than the kids, then the best should be in the All Blacks.

■ Traditional sport is doomed if the numbers who poured in to the Big Boy, Big Gal Challenge at Linton on Saturday were a measure.

Perfectly respectable citizens in their lycras were motivated by getting cold, wet and muddy and happily slithering through an obstacle course and paying through the nose for the privilege. Strange beings.

■ Whoever picked the New Zealand men's Commonwealth Games table tennis team wasn't looking to the future.

There are two elderlies in the team and both live in France where they play professionally. One is Peter Jackson, 49, and the other Shane Laugesen, 39.

Former Manawatu player Li Chunli looks a certainty for the women's team, at the tender age of 51.

■ As a taxpayer, I am no longer prepared to add my 20 cents to an America's Cup challenge.

If Team New Zealand cannot win when leading 8-1, how can they win when it starts at 0-all and a billionaire in cahoots with Kiwi Russell Coutts has changed the rules heavily in the defender's favour. We don't even know where the regatta is to be staged, so let's cut our losses and leave the money men to it.

That money from the New Zealand exchequer would be better spent helping Pacific atolls build walls to keep the warming seas at bay.

■ Quip of the week: Tweet from Wallabies rugby fan Alex: "Man you Kiwis over-react; didn't use (sic) win the game?"

Manawatu Standard