The imperious form of New Zealand bodes well for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to be held on home soil.
by Fili Tupua on 24 September 2010
So, the dust has settled and we reluctantly fold away another extraordinary chapter of Tri-Nations rugby at its’ best.
Where else do we start (or end for that matter), but for the indestructible, inescapable and incredible aura of the All Blacks. Richie McCaw’s superb team is one for the ages. You just cannot ignore the utmost supremacy and complete dominance that this All Blacks outfit has displayed in six tough, gruelling Test matches.
I had strongly persisted in my previous articles to Messrs Graham Henry, and his assistants, that they must select the premier XV on a regular basis in order to develop their confidence as a team and in turn, maintain their consistency and superiority. It was a welcome sight to finally witness a fresh new-age power from the ‘dark force’.
They disposed of Ireland and Wales in the Steinlager Series back in June, before getting serious with the Springboks and Wallabies in an unprecedented six straight victories home and abroad during the Investec Tri-nations through the blending of in-form debutants and senior hard heads, not to mention an undefeated campaign .
Sure there were edge-of-the-seat moments in terms of those dramatic comebacks where the All Blacks had struggled in the early stages, only to come out on top where it counts, literally at the very last second. And it is exactly this very reason of moulding a quality team in terms of the importance of established and comfortable group of players.
Coinciding with the new law interpretations, the All Blacks have raised the bar, being the masters of finishing off any battle under sustained pressure no matter who the opposition is, let alone the next two powerhouses of world rugby.
The standard of excellence was there for all to see, demonstrating marvellous skills, brilliant rugby and outstanding composure to not only take care of their twin-nemeses, but also blocking out the ferocious and passionate supporters unbeknown anywhere.
The respective 70,000-plus and 90,000-plus crowds at Sydney and Soweto is evidence of this remarkable achievement.
It is rewarding and deserving of recognition, of how the All Blacks continue to accomplish such feats in their unparalleled and proud history.
They are on the verge of breaking the world record of winning 17 Test matches in a row, although some may question the value of this sequence considering they did indeed falter at the last hurdle in 2009, losing 18-25 to the Barbarians, in between.
Despite the non-Test status of this match, technically speaking, you could argue that if the All Blacks had to start on a clean slate then perhaps the record stands at just the nine games succeeded thus far in 2010.
Add a further more-than-likely five consecutive matches on their upcoming end-of-year tour - if ever I’m being the perfectionist or protagonist - then the ‘genuine’ record should stand at 14.
Quite fittingly, only then should the ‘official’ record be realised leading up to the World Cup fixtures next year.
Nevertheless, it is confirmed in the realms of the legitimate and historical chronicles alike, that it currently remains at 15 ... and counting.
There have obviously been a lot of noises in relation to the performances of the All Blacks, but as fickle and unpredictable as nature can be, they’re not all pleasant. It can’t always be, but for all their patience and prevailing in answering their critics every so often, it seems that the only way to derail this All Black machine is off the field, rather than on it. Say what you like, but the All Blacks are just getting better and better.
The newcomers such as Israel Dagg, Victor Vito, the Franks brothers, Sam Whitelock, Aaron Cruden and Rene Ranger have taken their opportunities with aplomb.
Following the hardcore experience of world-class players the calibre of Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina, Keven Mealamu, Brad Thorn, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Piri Weepu and even Joe Rokocoko, as well as the next-in-line leaders in Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Cory Jane and Jimmy Cowan, it is an impressive line-up.
Laying a wonderful foundation is none other than ‘The Man’ himself, the greatest captain in All Blacks history, Richard Hugh McCaw. Meanwhile, the NZ provincial ITM Cup is being heralded for it’s exciting and extremely high-standard rugby.
And with the World Cup showdown not too far away, why wouldn’t it be ? With the likes of rising stars like Robbie Fruean, Julian Savea and ... wait for it ... the X-Factor of all X-Factors, the powerful Sonny Bill Williams looming large, there is still a stack of other candidates who may not tour, but will need to prove their worth to be in the heavy-duty squad come World Cup time.
I’m referring to players like Colin Slade, Neemia Tialata, Luke McAlister, Daniel Braid and Hosea Gear. And this on top of returning injured superstars – believe it or not – namely Ali Williams, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui and Andrew Hore.
Mark my words, because with the current squad they have, and providing that the coaches are absolutely honest with themselves, there is no stopping this fantastic New Zealand side.
They are destined to be the ultimate warriors from this time, during the 2011 World Cup and even beyond that. Mistakes are undone, lessons have been learnt and team comradeship are just the vital ingredients of what is required to be a successful organisation of any kind.
And in team sport, you can’t go past the All Blacks, especially with the legendary Richie McCaw at the helm.