by Jack Hamshaw
New Zealand have produced some great times in their history but this current side must surely be up their with the best. Recently the All Blacks had the chance to equal the longest winning run in test history of 17 consecutive matches when they played Australia at Suncorp Stadium. New Zealand’s previous loss, 16 test matches ago, came at the same stadium.
It was not meant to be for New Zealand and the irony came with Dan Carter, a player for the ages, missing a last-minute drop-goal from right in front of the posts, 20 metres out. The match ended in an 18-18 draw, in what was a super-human effort from an Australia side that were missing 10 first-team players and were down to their fourth choice captain.
In the recent era New Zealand have been the outstanding team and it has been astonishing that they won their first world cup in 24 years in Auckland, last October. Having gone through the tournament not only undefeated but not even challenged until they almost bottled in the final, New Zealand have gone from strength to strength and won all 6 matches in the new Rugby Championship with alarming ease. It would have been fitting for them to reach and overtake the record for the longest winning run in world rugby. Currently in top tier rugby, the All Blacks side from 1969 and South Africans from 1998 hold the record but few would have argued that this side were not worthy.
Had they beaten Australia, they would have then marched to Europe looking to break the record before their captain Richie McCaw takes a 6-month sabbatical from the game. Early this season McCaw brought up his 100th test match victory. Not only is this a phenomenal effort but it is all the more staggering that it was achieved from 112 matches. McCaw is a true leader, one of the best players ever and a player 100% committed to his country. McCaw is not swayed by money as after being granted a 6-month sabbatical, he has not decided to take up lucrative offers in Japan or France but to take time out of the game to do his upmost to make sure that he is around to help the Kiwis defend their World Cup title in 2015. Whether McCaw makes it that far before his body gives in is anybody’s guess and a fair amount of luck but one cannot take away how much he has done for the game and for New Zealand rugby.
New Zealand are currently playing a level of rugby, which is so beyond anyone else in the world. The Crusaders got closest to this level a couple of years ago as did Leinster in winning back to back Heineken Cup’s. As good as the players are that New Zealand produce, their coaches are even better. Every successful side of recent years has had a Kiwi coach and it is no coincidence. The Crusaders side that won 7 Super Rugby titles in 10 years with Robbie Deans, Steve Hansen and Verb Cotter in charge. Wales won grand slams with Steve Hansen and Graham Henry in charge, Leinster have won 3 of the last 4 Heineken Cup’s with Kiwi Joe Schmidt in charge and Clermont won the Top 14 and look the greatest threat to the European Cup with Vern Cotter in charge. All these coaches bar Schmidt stem from the Crusaders and Canterbury region, without them the rugby seen today around the world would surely be totally different.
New Zealand are at a level with their game that no side has reached in recent history, they can play many styles and I know that they put in a poor performance against Australia but they didn’t lose. They will surely dominate World Rugby for years to come as besides McCaw, Mealamu and Andrew Hore none of their players are on the crisp of retiring and imagine if they had the world most talented player, Sonny-Bill Williams in the their side every week, scary isn’t it!