After years of trying to secure a place in the All Blacks, it looks like it took a move to Australia for Daniel Braid to get the attention he always wanted from the NZRU. With the new tackle ball rules and the Reds form this season, Braid is shining in Australia during the 2010 Super 14. His strength was always his linking play, and the new rules are really bringing that to the fore. His value to the All Blacks has been intensified with a lack of a real frontrunner to backup All Black legend Richie McCaw. Competing for the top spot back in New Zealand are Tanerau Latimer, George Whitelock, Alando Soakai, Serge Lilo and Scott Waldrom. The incumbent back up All Black number 7 is Tanerau Latimer.
When Tanerau Latimer burst onto the screen, scoring three tries for the Crusaders in 2006 it seemed as though New Zealand had found a backup and eventual replacement for Richie McCaw. He was a former sevens star , debuting at 17 years old in 2004 and winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2006. He’s blessed with a huge aerobic capacity, courtesy of a youth spent in competitive swimming. However, the same linking and following up skills that he showed in his sevens career and in that break out season have been strangely missing ever since. He’s established himself as the Chiefs’ openside flanker since the departure of Marty Holah and finished 2009 as the backup openside flanker for the All Blacks. However, he hasn’t set the world on fire in either job. He doesn’t have the same ability to turnover the ball at the tackle that McCaw or Holah has. However, he should be flourishing with these new laws because players are not allowed to attack the ball like they used to.
The problem may be the team he is playing in. The poor season the Chiefs’ forward pack is having is probably not giving him the opportunity to shine he should be getting. In an interview recently Josh Kronfield implied that of the candidates, Latimer is still likely to have the most potential. He advised that “If Tanerau had a bit more of a toiler eight who did not go missing off and on, then he would benefit”. In other words, if his number 8 was the opposite of Chiefs’ team-mate Sione Lauaki. Should he make it back into the All Blacks however, that is exactly the sort of support he would receive from likely number 8s Kieran Read and Rodney So’oialo.