OPINION: Veteran All Blacks midfielder Ma'a Nonu had some interesting thoughts in the lead-up to yesterday's test in Argentina.
Nonu, one of the stars of the All Blacks' surprisingly easy 54-15 win, has not looked entirely happy in 2012.
On the back of terrible Blues season, you couldn't help but feel he was suffering a little from the comedown of winning the Rugby World Cup.
He has also allowed New Zealand's over-expectant rugby public to get to him.
"They [expectations] are always high but it's ironic because we play a side and maybe we pile on the points and people say, ‘no, the opposition needs to get better', and we play a test match where we don't actually pile on the points and they say, ‘well, you're not meeting our expectations'. People tend to forget it's a test match," he said.
He's right, although the All Blacks have lifted those expectations through their domination of world rugby over the last few years.
It's what makes the All Blacks the All Blacks, that expectation, and without it they would be just another team.
The rugby public want perfection every time their national side turns out and that must take its toll on some All Blacks because they are never given much leeway when things don't go exactly to plan.
Nonu has looked dissatisfied through most of the year.
Given the spotlight was firmly on Sonny Bill Williams through the Super Rugby season, it would be understandable if Nonu felt a bit peeved about not getting the recognition he thought was maybe owed to him.
After all, it was the dreaded one who played a major hand in the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup, not SBW.
Nonu probably erred by heading to Japan straight after the tournament instead of taking a break but the opportunity to earn some pretty soft cash was obviously too tempting.
Given that he has been a bit flat though the majority of the Rugby Championship, coupled with the continued speculation about his playing future, it was great to see Nonu in such bristling form yesterday.
His enthusiasm for the test was obvious, as was the whole team's desire to put on a really good performance.
It was like they were given a new challenge and they desperately wanted to conquer it by playing to their optimum.
It's not a completely uncommon thing for this team, especially under the leadership of Richie McCaw.
Argentina could not live with the pace and accuracy the All Blacks brought to the test and the home fans appreciated it.
The All Blacks also appreciated the home crowd, too, after they were given a standing ovation.
Hopefully, the enjoyment Nonu got out of yesterday's experience was enough to convince him to stay in New Zealand because his value to the game here and the All Blacks is immense.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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