Monday, June 30, 2008

Mighty New Zealand

As the Southern Hemisphere international season commences, let none gloat about and mock the New Zealanders' demise. Let's get this hollow commercial concept of World Cups out of the way. Yes in 1987 the All Blacks won the world cup with a path of domination as was the astounding Canterbury have completing the 2008 Rebel Sport Super 14 with their seventh title in the 13 years that the tournament has been operating. This means quite simply that the world's dominant provincial team has won over 50 per cent of the toughest domestic international series - a tournament that ranks alongside the Heineken Cup.
If you add the three titles that the Auckland Blues have claimed, this makes for fearsome reading for Australian and South African supporters. Only three times has another country claimed the title. The current world champions, South Africa, for all of their bleating, have won only one title despite empty claims that they have the toughest domestic competition. As well as this, New Zealand has five times provided the losing finalist to the competition's Grand Final. Fifteen finals appearances to seven by Australia, while the Africans have only appeared in three finals!
But, of course, many point to the fact that countries' overall domination is reflected in their international performance – and in this arena the All Blacks quite simply have no peer. In 1987 the All Blacks won with a path of domination that was astounding not only for the fact that they were unchallenged, but that they had recently had a massive number of their players banned over the "Cavalier" controversy.
In 1991, the All Blacks did the rugby world a favour by appointing two conflicting coaches and fielding a side on the decline. The Wallabies, eventual champions, nearly lost to Samoa in pool stages and only defeated Ireland by one point. The Australians at this point had evolved into a top team courtesy of being groomed by New Zealand by numerous Bledisloe thrashings.
In 1995, the All Blacks were the dominant team in the cup – hosted by South Africa, whose re-entry into top rugby was due to the New Zealanders' consistent attempts to play African teams despite their worldwide sporting ban from the apartheid policies. The Springboks then repaid this favour by poisoning the entire All Blacks team, but despite this could only defeat the legendary team that carried Lomu in extra time.
The following three tournaments New Zealand paid the price with poor selection policies, inconsistent game plans and over-hyped expectation. The victories by Australia, England and South Africa in the cups were by name only. John Eales, Martin Johnson and John Smit have all admitted publicly that their teams were given huge favours by having the All Blacks knocked out by once-in-a-lifetime performances by other teams.
South Africa and Australia owe their standing on the world rugby stage to the constant competition with the New Zealanders. The South Africans claim dominance in the amateur days of international rugby, but the controversy over apartheid, biased referees and constant cheating assured South Africa were a false world power. Despite this, New Zealand continued to send teams, despite fears of even being banned from Olympic events and they openly defied the Gleneagles agreement – the only country to do so. Ironically, the All Blacks continued to nurture the South African rugby beast.
Australia gained much from being the Tasman neighbour of New Zealand. Up until 1997 the Wallabies had only won seven Bledisloe Cups and the All Blacks held it for 27 straight years in the mid 1900s – however, the Australians grew from regular competition with the greatest of rugby nations.
But, of course, like any great argument, we need proof to back up these audacious claims. In over 100 years of rugby the All Blacks have only lost 96 times. Every other country in the world has lost at least twice that many games. South Africa has lost more, despite being banned from international competition for many years. New Zealand is the only team in world rugby not to have a half-century of points posted against them and their largest losing margin is 21 points – half of any other team.
The All Blacks have won 75 per cent of all games played, with a success rate almost as impressive overseas as at home, being the finest touring team in world rugby, and being almost unbeatable at home. Some people claim they are an over-hyped, over-marketed product. The simple reality is that they are the biggest rugby draw card on the planet and that any union will clamber to host the best team of all time.
Only five of the current Test playing nations have beaten New Zealand, and they have a dominant winning percentage over any team. They score more tries, more points and hold higher levels of game statistic ascendancy over all teams; dominating possession and territory even when on the rare losing end of the ledger.
This is why they are the most feared and loathed team in the world. They consistently play attacking rugby and are the most watchable team in the world … unfortunately to their downfall in the commercial World Cup. The sight of the black jersey and the magnificent sporting spectacle of the haka, an impenetrable black wall of defence, and unrelenting wave of black attack – the All Blacks are a sporting team of legendary and godlike status.

By- Simo Mbongo



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