Rugby man of the millennium
Daniel Carter to play his 100th Super rugby game
Today we salute the scion of Southbridge – Daniel Carter – All Blacks icon and the greatest player in Canterbury rugby history.
The ninth Crusader to play 100 Super rugby games is also the best – by the narrowest of photo finishes with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
Carter is that once-in-a-generation player rugby folk rhapsodise, the type spoken of with the same reverential awe of superstars from other eras – George Nepia, Colin Meads and Michael Jones.
The man he replaced, Andrew Mehrtens, was formerly the foremost wearer of the Canterbury and No10 jersey and, arguably up to that point, the best in All Blacks history until along came a kid from Mehrtens' own alma mater, Christchurch Boys High School.
As great as Mehrtens undoubtedly was, Carter has taken first five-eighth play to another stratosphere. No inside half has had such a complete game. Carter kicks goals as well as Jonny Wilkinson, directs play as adroitly as the masterful Mehrtens, runs the ball back better than Carlos Spencer and tackles so tenaciously hulking opposition loose forwards think twice about attacking his channel.
Carter exudes the quality confined to the sporting elite – time. He seems to have a sixth sense on the rugby field, never looking harried or stressed. He also knows, innately, when to put the hammer down and up the tempo, to mark that dart through a gap no-one else has spotted yet, or to employ the grubber kick or chip to devastating effect behind the opposition defensive line.
It's widely regarded Carter was at his zenith in the 2005 British and Irish Lions series. That is doing the great man a disservice because that Lions mob were simply not up to much. Carter did dominate, especially in Wellington where he scored 33 points as the All Blacks romped home 48-18 amidst the aftermath of the tour-ending spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll in the first test.
Carter's first try – an audacious chip and chase – had the crowd on their feet at its breathtaking execution. But he'd be first to admit he had an armchair ride that night behind a fiery All Blacks pack which pulverised the toothless Lions.
The first five's virtuoso qualities have always been uppermost in the Tri-Nations arena against Australia and South Africa where coves like Schalk Burger, George Smith and David Pocock have put him under intense pressure.
The All Blacks have won six Tri-Nations titles – including four on the bounce between 2005 and 2008 – since Carter's been running the backline cutter. Coincidence? Hardly. He isn't the top all-time points scorer in the most challenging international rugby competition in the world for nothing.
So savour every game Carter plays in a Crusaders strip over the next four years. By the time he hangs up his radar-like boots, he may well be, indisputably, New Zealand's greatest All Black.
This man is the type of player you long to boast to your grandchildren about.
- © Fairfax NZ News