The Barretts will beat the best of Britain and Ireland. And they’ll go on to help the Hurricanes win back-to-back Super Rugby titles.
Ok, that might seem an outrageous statement given rugby is a 15-man game (now played by 23) and that Jordie Barrett remains an outside chance to even make the All Blacks squad but, still, the Barretts, and Beauden in particular, are something special.
And, even in a team sport, individuals can appear to win a game alone. Ali Williams did it against the Lions in the first test in 2005 when he humiliated their much-vaunted lineout and scored a superb try in a display that was possibly his best in his 77 tests.
Dan Carter did it a week later with a stunning performance as he massed 33 points, helping the All Blacks thrash the Lions 48-18.
Don’t be surprised if the Barretts do a similar job on the Lions in June.
I say “the Barretts” because I reckon there is a strong chance Jordie will be on the right wing against the Lions. He’s been preferred at fullback by the Hurricanes and is seen as a potential second five long term, but he’s able to play anywhere in the backs (except, perhaps, halfback as he is 6ft 5 in the old measure, but even that may not be beyond him). He has all the attributes that Beauden does along with a cool head on his 20-year-old shoulders. He has pace, power, timing and a knack for being in the right pace at the right time. Starting him on the wing gives him a more basic role than at fullback and, with most of the contenders for right wing injured, the door is wide open for Jordie Barrett.
Did I mention he kicks goals? Accurately and consistently. That’s an attribute his older brother Beauden doesn’t always have and may play a big role in Jordie starting against the Lions.
Beauden’s inconsistent goal kicking (it’s not as bad as many suggest it is) and a recent penchant for getting yellow cards for slapping the ball away are perhaps the only faults in his game. His tackling has improved considerably in recent years and his attacking play, well, you start to run out of superlatives. What sets him apart, and what will cause the Lions all sorts of headaches, is his pace. Dan Carter, Andrew Mehrtens and Carlos Spencer were all quick off the mark, but they wouldn’t have stayed with Barrett as the metres slipped away. He is Christian Cullen quick.
And, like Cullen, he has an eye for a gap few see, combined with the spunk Spencer brought to his game. Barrett, like Spencer, is wickedly creative and has that express pace to turn the faintest of chances into points.
Compared to Barrett, the Lions’ likely first fives of George Ford, Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar and Johnny Sexton are pedestrian. They’re that old man you see who is determined to keep up his daily walk as he shuffles to the dairy in his slippers.
Barrett left a few Blues players lumbering after him in their slippers at Eden Park on Saturday in a performance that will leave Lions coach Warren Gatland lying awake at night. He knows the All Blacks will win their fare share of the ball so strangling Barrett’s chances to attack will be difficult. He also knows it will be dangerous for the Lions to kick too much ball away for fear Barrett will be able to combine with the likes of Julian Savea and Ben Smith in counter attack.
If he stays fit, Beauden Barrett will again guide the Hurricanes to the Super Rugby title. Yes, Chiefs fans, I know your team played superbly to come from 0-24 down to thrash the Cheetahs 41-27 in Bloemfontein. It was a remarkable comeback and they are easily good enough to win another title. And yep, I know the Crusaders are top of the table and that they too will take a fair bit of stopping. Sure, it’s true the Hurricanes are yet to play the Crusaders, have another game to come against the Chiefs (the only team to beat them this year) and are still to play one of South Africa’s best teams, the Stormers.
Yes, all of that rugby is to come. But none of those teams have a player who can turn a game like Beauden Barrett can.
Blues assistant coach Steve Jackson was asked what plan they’d had in place to slow down Barrett at Eden Park. He said, not entirely joking, that they’d hoped he’d have been banned for a week after copping two yellow cards last week.
Barrett will tidy up the discipline side of his game, which will leave Gatland and the Lions hoping he is injured when the tests swing around. If not Barrett, even without his little brother alongside him, will beat the Lions.