Opinion: Why Beauden Barrett will remain All Blacks first-choice goal-kicker

Opinion 16/09/2018
Photo: Getty.

By Andrew Gourdie, sports presenter.

OPINION: Here we go again. 

Not for the first time, fans are left questioning whether Beauden Barrett's goalkicking is up to international standard.

Four missed conversions in Wellington - two of them late in the match, striking the upright from very handy field position - contributed in no small part to an All Blacks defeat to South Africa. 

There will be calls for him to be replaced - it ain't gonna happen. 

There are two logical options to replace him - one is Jordie Barrett, the other is Richie Mo'unga. 

Jordie Barrett's goalkicking is clearly superior to his older brother, but he proved on Saturday that he simply isn't yet at the level required to be a first choice All Black.

After scoring the team's first try, he made a reckless decision to take a quick throw-in 25 minutes into the first half that backfired badly. It was the wrong decision in the wrong moment.

Photo credit: Photosport.

South Africa had momentum, the All Blacks had just got themselves out of jail following a Springboks break. The moment required a player to remain composed, slow the play, and reset.

Quality outside backs are queuing up for an opportunity to start in this All Blacks squad. Jordie Barrett got his, but he didn't take it.

Unfortunately, he did himself few favours and reinforced the belief that the best fullback in world rugby, Ben Smith, should be allowed to play in his best position. 

Richie Mo'unga's goalkicking is a strength. He delivered a solid performance in his first start in an All Blacks jersey against Argentina in Nelson last weekend.

But let's get real here - with four tries and 30 points against the Wallabies only a couple of weeks ago, Beauden Barrett proved he is clearly the best first-five in the country.

A year out from the Rugby World Cup, it would require a dramatic downturn in personal form and a string of bad results for him to be usurped as the first choice number 10 in the eyes of the All Blacks coaches, who are renowned for showing faith in those who performed for them in the black jersey.

Despite this latest display, no-one can argue Barrett has performed badly enough to be dropped. 

The fact is this - recent history shows the All Blacks rarely need a conversion or a penalty to get them across the line. Saturday was one of them, but there really is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

South Africa put forward an heroic display, they deserved their victory. The All Blacks don't often make mistakes and when they do, their opponents often aren't good enough to punish them.

Saturday night, the Springboks were good enough and that brought other factors - like Barrett's goalkicking - into sharp perspective. 

Barrett's kicking clearly needs work. It must improve.

The All Blacks will be faced with this situation again in the near future and Barrett will need to respond, either off the tee or in open play.

And that's perhaps the greater concern - why did he not shape to kick the drop goal that would have won the match in the dying seconds?

Did a bad night affect his confidence so badly that he didn't trust himself when it came to the crunch moment? 

These are some of the issues he and the All Blacks coaches need to confront in the wake of a shock defeat, but it's clear Barrett must - and will - be trusted to learn from the experience.   

Andrew Gourdie is Newshubs sports presenter and hosts Sunday Sport on RadioLIVE.