Let’s just pause for a moment and ask WHY I am in such awe of this team. Well, consistency has never been a problem for the All Blacks but they have something as a team that other teams can only say about the odd individual player – The “X-Factor”. Anyone who wants to shoot me down in flames for saying this is, in my humble opinion, living in denial. Let’s look back at the history of the Rugby World Cup for a moment as I believe this is where we can see the evidence. Whilst we were excluded from the first two (1987 & 1991), the stats for the rest are there for all to see. Every team that won the RWC suffered a slump in performance almost immediately thereafter & definitely during the following year, with teams they beat during the competition beating them in return. South Africa 1995, Australia 1999, England 2003, South Africa 2007. Now, along comes 2011 & the All Blacks win what was probably the most thrilling rugby test ever seen on TV, by a whisker. They beat their nemesis (France) in a RWC competition final, after being stumped by them in 1999 & 2007. They managed to overcome “The Monkey on their back” at last. So, what would happen in 2012 – expect them to have shot their bolt and suffer from the winner’s hangover? Not on your life. The Chiefs (NZ) dominated the competition and ultimately won it and now, the ALL BLACKS won the Four-Nations – Rugby Championship tournament with a few games remaining – the only team to be UNBEATEN!
I watched the game on TV2 & was surprised to hear the SA commentator claim the All Blacks “should have been world champions a long time ago”. Such comments are not made (or taken) lightly. This was testament to the respect the commentator has for this team and whilst we certainly don’t want to suggest they should have won the RWC when the Boks did, there’s a common belief that the All Blacks were their own worst enemies during these competitions because they always lost after changing the way they played. The minute they play a very defensive game (what we refer to in SA as “test rugby”), they struggle & in those games they tend to get beaten.
OK, so where does that leave us. Well, Kitch Christie tried to get Louis Luyt to move the rugby headquarters from Ellis Park in 1995 to new premises (Midrand I think) where he wanted to establish SA’s first Rugby Academy. Luyt refused & it was many years later when the Sharks Academy was established by the Natal Rugby Union and the results have been astonishing. This academy churns out world-class players year-in and year-out. The Bulls have also now established their own academy and that’s also going to work wonders in that area. BUT, and this is a HUGE “BUT”… Until we get some consistency in the coaching STYLE in this country, we will continue to produce outstanding individual players who will struggle to show their true skills whilst being shunted from pillar to post by one coach after another who will also try to change the way these players play. The Boks showed they can face-up to any team in the first 40 minutes. Unfortunately they tend to fall short in the second half.
Finally, additional factors that definitely influenced the results of not only Saturday’s test, but the entire series for the Springboks:
1. Injuries to senior players – the Boks have struggled with the loss of a number of influential players who were injured either early in this competition or during the Super series;
2. Team/Player selections – this is & will always be a contentious issue, but the coach simply stuck far too long with players like Morne’ Steyn, who not only played terrible rugby but also cost the team many potential points with his loss of form;
3. Aimless kicking – wow, I’m sure the All Blacks couldn’t believe what they received in their encounters with the Boks. This silly “tactic” was prevalent throughout the series – maybe less during the last Oz test & look at those results!
4. Inexperienced players – these guys played with heart, gusto & passion, but you simply cannot substitute this for experience – reverts to the injury factor.
I’d welcome any comments and/or opinions from readers.