Another week, another crushing defeat by the All Blacks. For the second week in a row, Australia were outclassed, outmuscled and ultimately out-thought by a side that is simply far and away superior to anyone that attempts to challenge them.
The Australians were the unlucky ones this time but replace them with any other opposition and it is unlikely that the results would be any different. Wales were valiant in their Summer tour but ultimately fell short. The next tests for this all conquering side are both Argentina and South Africa respectively, both strong sides yet ultimately inferior, even to Australia.
Let’s not forget, this was an Australian side highly rated, and deservedly so, after their performances at the 2015 World Cup, a tournament where again they were ultimately defeated by their local rivals, albeit in a tight encounter that could have gone either way. This summer’s lost series against a re-energised England side seems to have taken its toll on the Australians. The wounded South Africans will not offer them any respite when they meet at the Suncorp Stadium in a weeks time.
As things stand, on current performances only England seem to be in the form and frame of mind to pose the All Blacks a significant challenge, yet it is a match-up we will sadly be denied, at least until 2017. If I was a betting man, I would find it very difficult to look beyond New Zealand continuing their domination for many a year.
They will lose games, every team does. Yet the truly great do not lose two in a row – and that is exactly what the All Blacks are; perhaps the only truly great sporting team in the world. They have been since I can remember! Every generation of All Black sides have been vastly superior to their counterparts. Whilst some nations rely on their power (England, SA), others their flair (France, Wales), the New Zealand sides of the 80s onwards have been proficient in all areas and have had the ability to use each of their skills in a way that not only achieved results but continually entertained the masses. As I sat and watched them pick the Australian defence apart again and again, I could not help but be in awe of their abilities. Their all round skill was wonderfully summed up towards the end of their last game, as hooker Dane Coles sprinted down the wing, beating men with ease before offloading with perfection to continue another devastating attack. Is there another side in world rugby which can boast of a front three possessing such dynamism? I was left thinking that, no matter who I was supporting, I would pay to watch All Blacks every time.
It is therefore staggering that they have only managed to win the World Cup three times in their history, considering their dominance. Therein lay their problem. That one game that they would occasionally inevitably lose ended up being in vital moments within tournaments. Sides that should have walked over their opposition peaked too soon (during the 1995 and 1999 tournaments specifically). That one of Rugby Union’s true legends, Jonah Lomu, could not call himself a World Cup winner was harsh and undeserved for such a great individual.
However the last two tournament cycles have show that the All Blacks have identified and resolved this anomaly in their sporting history. As their challengers change with an expected regularity, the New Zealanders continue to improve, often when it seems they have ultimately reached perfection. Their production line in top level talent continues to supply player after player of a level far and away above any of their international counterparts. They effortlessly slot into the national team as if they have always belonged, be it on their debut or their hundredth Test. Last week the man best qualified to comment on their dominance, Richie McCaw, put it perfectly in his gentle, understated way. “That’s the great thing about the ABs. It doesn’t matter who you are, the team just moves on.”
You may not support them when they play against your team but you cannot fail to enjoy the way they play the game.