We've watched a lot of rugby in our 50+ years of treading God's earth. We've seen plenty of players come, and plenty of players go. Some of them haven't been too bad either; Waka Nathan, Colin Meads, Graham Mourie, Michael Jones, John Kirwan and Jonah Lomu are names which immediately spring to mind; outstanding footballers all, in their respective eras.
And so we wonder; did yesterday mark the start of the Sonny Bill Williams era? Is Williams actually that good, are are we getting all, excited without good reason.
Graham Henry is a convert; check this out, from Stuff:
Graham Henry says Sonny Bill Williams' ability to off-load in the tackle is the best he has seen during his storied coaching career.We don't know that we would go as far as Henry in our praise of the Big Fella, but he most certainly doesn't look out of place at test match level - thus far. The real test will come for Williams when his opponents work him out, and find ways to nullify his offloading ability.
The All Blacks coach singled out his second-five for high praise after watching him orchestrate a seven-try 49-3 demolition job on Scotland today.
"He'll be obviously pretty pleased with the way he's playing and he has got an amazing ability to off-load the ball in the tackle as you people saw tonight and that's a real asset," Henry said.
"I don't think I've ever seen any rugby player with that sort of skill in that situation before."
Considering the array of players Henry has coached it was a remarkable statement on a player who has just two test caps, but it was hard to argue after Williams off-loaded in the tackle almost at will against the Scots.
But there is something freaky about Williams. The backhand flick passes with which he set up tries for Hosea Gear and Mils Muliaina were perfectly timed and executed. He was part of the build-up to two other tries with conventional passes, and along with Conrad Smith was part of a gang tackle which produced the turnover leading to Dan Carter's try.
The real tests for Williams lie ahead of him, in our ever-humble opinion. We will be watching closely to see how her performs in Super Rugby next year when he will be expected to produce the goods week-in-week-out for the Crusaders.
In the post-match interviews yesterday, Williams referred to himself as a work in progress, and suggested that he was still getting his feet under the table in the All Black environment. We'd suggest that the progress is pretty good so far. But just how good is Sonny Bill Williams now, and how good is he going to be?