New Zealand Fall One Short of Record Winning Run
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.Live Rugby Scores
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.Rugby Odds
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!
And another thing
by Richard O'Hagan
And to think you thought I'd stopped griping along about Saturday's Tri-Nations opener.
To put it bluntly, when the bloody hell are the IRB going to do something about injury stoppages and blood replacements during games? When I was first introduced to the game, one of the selling points of rugby was that you played on irrespective of the number of dead and dying on the pitch. Not all grinding to a halt every time someone broke a fingernail was one of the things that distinguished rugby from those wimps that play soccer and I loved it.
On Saturday, we had the game being halted after about three minutes so that Adam Ashley-Cooper could have treatment on a hand that was already bandaged up. Stopping the game because someone has a sort pinkie is madness enough, but when it is to have treatment on a pre-existing problem then, frankly, the player should leave the pitch altogether.
And then there are the blood replacements. Once upon a time they didn't exist. Either you bled onto the pitch, or you left it and your team soldiered on with fourteen men until you'd had a few stitches. At the weekend, CJ van der Linde was on and off the pitch so often I wondered if he was on a bungee rope. At least two of those occasions were because the Springbok medics had failed to stitch up Grayling properly. In wendyball you don't get a blood replacement at all and I'm astonished that rugby is allowing itself to be in a less grown up position than that bunch of prima donnas.
More seriously, no blood replacements would mean that we never saw something as ridiculous as Bloodgate again.
In short, there's a World Cup coming up and I don't want to have to endure ten minutes of stoppages in every Wales game because someone scratches a bit of fake tan off of Gavin Henson, so get a grip, IRB, before it is too late.
And after that hospital pass...
by Richard O'Hagan
It's always nice when your editor goes on holiday and leaves you with a piece on masturbation and a message which effectively says 'Ha! Follow that, sucker'. In fact, it is a hospital pass on a par with those thrown by Austin Healey in his less 'focussed' moments.
Notwithstanding that, I do have to disagree with the learned editor. Saturday's Tri-Nations opener was nothing like having a quick one off of the wrist. It was, in fact, like the worst sex you have ever had, the kind of sex where one of you peaks far too soon and then loses interest, whilst the other one only actually wakes up 3/4 of the way through. As a game, it was that bad. It did make me think the following things, though:
The future of South African rugby doesn't exactly look rosy - even if this was pretty much their 'B' team against the Australian (almost) first XV, you would have expected them to run and tackle their socks off. At one point in the game they had missed almost nine times as many tackles as their opponents. And then I stopped counting.
This would be a decent Australian team if they had forwards who could handle the ball - Will Genia was pretty much the difference between this side and the one which lost to Samoa last week, but for long parts of this match every time he passed the ball it seemed to end up going in the general direction of a forward. Who would drop it. Australia actually had more turnovers that South Africa and I reckon 95% of them came from the tight five.
You can't win a game if it takes 57 minutes for you to launch a meaningful attack - which is exactly what the Springboks did. They scored from that attack, but by that stage they were 33 points down and Australia had stopped caring. Earlier in the game they had a breakaway from the inevitable Aussie turnover. The breakaway group of seven had so little support that, by the time the ball went to ground, I counted at least 12 Australians back behind the ball.
You can't win a game if your back row don't win any ball and your half-backs don't do anything with the ball they have - It is a long while since I've seen a half back pairing do so little with so little ball, and I've watched the last half dozen Scotland games.
I have no idea if this Aussie midfield can defend - because they were never really tested. They went backwards the one time the 'Boks properly ran the ball at them in the first half, but then they scored almost immediately after and the visitors stopped trying that tactic, as if the two events were somehow connected.
When was the last time you saw two front row forwards run tries in? - Not crash over from a maul or tap penalty, or not do that prop thing where you take the ball on the line and then almost trip over it, but run in from ten metres out (or thereabouts). I can't remember one such occasion since the last World Cup, which is another savage indictment of the South African defence.
South Africa have a big problem with John Smit - One of the problems with playing your old and soon to be retired captain amid a team of youngsters is that they tend to look a bit old, fat and slow. Which, when your side is a bit slow anyway, is something of a problem. Smit's only significant contribution to the day was to flollop into a post for his side's final try. As a hooker he was outplayed by replacement Chilliboy Rallepelle, who also has a much better name. I never thought I'd regard Smit as the weak link in any South African front row, but it seems that the day has come.
James O'Connor's run up - How long before the Johnny Wilkinson 'arms outstretched whilst taking a dump' pose is replaced by O'Connor's toy soldier march to the ball. It was like watching an episode of Camberwick Green.
Patrick Lambie - He looks like Fotherington-Thomas. You don't win anything at this level if your fly half looks like Fotherington-Thomas.
Why this year's Tri Nations is a little bit like masturbating
There's a scene in There's Something About Mary, one of the two Farrelly Brothers films that actually make you laugh, in which Ben Stiller's character Tom's best friend Dom 'Woogie' Woganowski scolds him for not masturbating before going out for a night with the eponymous Mary - "Oh my God, he doesn't flog the dolphin before a big date. Are you crazy? That's like going out there with a loaded gun!" says Dom, leading to the famous scene when Ted does just that.
This is an example of when unleashing such potential and possible performance destroying, er, energy before a major event is perhaps a good idea. This year's Tri Nations, starting on Saturday, is not, as surely each team involves desperately wants to go out with a loaded gun come September.
So close to the Rugby World Cup and at the end of a long season this tournament is something of one off the wrist at the wrong time. Maintaining intensity in the run up to the RWC is no doubt a good thing, and maintaining the balance between being optimised or spent is one of the greatest challenges in modern professional rugby, but giving the tournament a swerve this year would have been better for everyone but the money men at the three national unions.
In this aspect, the timing of the Tri Nations reflects the unique attitude men have to self-pleasure (I just won't leave this alone will I?): we don't really do it because there's a emotional or physical catalyst prompting us, we do it when we have a spare ten minutes.
It could have been worse
Not a whole lot worse, admittedly, but it could have been worse for South Africa. After last week's drubbing by Australia, coming up against an All Black side at almost full strength could've been terminal for the Springboks. The last minute positional switch that saw Morne Steyn move to fullback and Patrick Lambie take his place at fly half belied their concern and lack of clear tactical thinking, and they failed to compete in any aspect of the game, but at least they only lost by 33 points.
On the other hand, that's exactly the sort of thing that we used to say about Italy and, frankly, the current Italian side would give these second-rate Springboks a shellacking, too.
For what it is worth, then,this is what we learned this weekend:
History really does repeat
How appropriate that the 'Boks decided to visit the homeland of Split Enz in order to prove this. Just like last week, they held out for ten minutes, then conceded a try wide out on the right to a prop forward, and then were totally surprised when, from the ensuing kick-off, their opponents ran the ball back at them and their left winger scored. It was as if the entire team had thought "That's not going to happen again, we can switch off for five minutes or so".
It doesn't matter how many fly halves you play
South Africa tried to get around the fact that one of their fly halves can't kick and the other one can't run by playing both of them. This doesn't work because (a) your opponents know what is going to happen depending upon which of them is standing in the fly half position (b) there's a risk that you leave a great big hole where the full-back should be (c) Morne Steyn forgot his kicking boots (d) neither Steyn nor Lambie are any good. Butch James, your stage awaits.
It should have been 51-7
Have you ever seen Daniel Carter miss four kicks in a game? Me neither.
Cory Jane might not even make it to the World Cup
This was Jane's tryout for a place in the final thirty and, frankly, he muffed it. He might have scored two tries, but apart from that all he proved is that he can run very fast in a straight line. The Springboks were so disorganised that he could have done anything, including running backwards in high heels, and still scored. This was a chance to show what else he could do - and he didn't.
It is still a numbers game
It rapidly became clear why there was all of the secrecy around the All Black shirts. Clearly, someone had forgotten that they needed numbers on the back, resulting in someone constructing them out of masking tape. That's what it looked like, at least. Unlike the South African shirts, upon which the numbers are so small and embarrassed looking, it is as if they were hoping to make them so small so that no-one could single out any one culprit for the performances on this tour. They failed.
The Nonu hair
Without the highlights, Ma'a Nonu definitely looks like one of Milli Vanilli
Alain Rolland won't be refereeing the next World Cup final
Not if he keeps penalising Ritchie McCaw, not on his home turf.
The Ryder Cup of rugby?
Robert Kitson has used his blog in Guardian today to mull the idea of a Ryder Cup of rugby, where the Northern Hemisphere would take on the Southern in an epic battle. Obviously this will never happen, mainly because there is no need as Rugby has a plethora of international competition already.
Golf on the other hand has none. It is mostly about individual middle-class blokes travelling the world in dodgy leisurewear getting overexcited about club technology, making money that would dwarf the national debt of Malawi and boring us all rigid in press conferences. Golf had to create the Ryder Cup to get its protagonists out of their Stepford bubble once every two years and expand its media appeal beyond men who like to talk about cars.
However I digress, as the reason I have brought this up here is because of the teams that Kitson has nominated:
Peter De Villiers to be sacked on 28th September
The SARU will meet Springbok head coach Peter De Villiers on September 28 to review the performances of his team this season.
This will surely be the shortest meeting any of them have ever attended since Jake White's re-application hearing in 2007.
PDV: Hello, I'd like to begin by saying that..
SARU: Shut up Peter! Your team was shit, their performances were shit, your moustache is shit and you are shit. In fact you are not only shit, you are now sacked as well. Goodbye.
PDV: I thought I'd be given a chance to say my piece!
SARU: Are you still here?
7 things we've learned from the Tri-nations thus far
1. South Africa are the only major team that doesn't appear to have any discernable period of development and seem to operate in binary. They are either 0 or 1; with 0 being SHIT and 1 being GOOD. They are currently very much in a 0 phase. Which probably means they will be enter a 1 phase about a week before RWC 2011.
2. Continuing the theme above, New Zealand are in a 1 phase. In fact, it is more like a 1+ phase. This will of course become a 00000000000000000 phase in the semi-final against France or Australia in a year or so.
3. Australia are definitely in a transition phase. Trouble is the transition appears to be between tactically confused and tactically naive.
4. The competition is all but over.
5. Joe Rokocoko is perhaps the jammiest player on earth to still be getting caps at his age/form.
6. South African rugby players are always one poor performance away from attempting to kill someone; or in Bakkies Botha's case, half a performance.
7. Israel Dagg looks like the new Glen Osborne, without the shite haircut.
Tri Nations Video: New Zealand 31 - 17 South Africa, highlights
There are many things in life that bring us comfort. High among these are those consistent things that let us know in times of uncertainty that the world is still on its axis and there is no need to panic: family, friends, Bakkies Botha being banned for violent play, cider, and of course the All Blacks looking unbeatable 12 months before a World Cup.
Of course, we all know what happens when the World Cup actually arrives...
Tri-Nations Preview: New Zealand vs South Africa, Eden Park, Saturday
After a gentle warm up of pasting some Northern Hemisphere sides, the big two from the big three are ready to raise the curtain on this year's Tri-Nations as they gear up for a humdinger at Eden Park.
Graham Henry took the opportunity during the recent matches to look at the many emerging talents at his disposal, but has obviously decided that none of them are to be trusted and recalled the majority of the backbone of his side from the past five years. There are 671 caps in this team and approximately 1,234 years. However, I am glad to see that this blog's One To Watch from last year, Aaron Cruden, makes the bench.
It seems that Henry has taken Martin Johnson's lead in believing that what is required in the 12 channel in modern rugby is not magic but meat, as Nonu has been selected to do what he does - running straight and not passing mostly - no doubt with a view to disrupting the creative axis of Morne Steyn and Olivier.
Current champs South Africa sealed the title in this fixture last year, but this time they are without the atomic boot of Francois Steyn to kick them to glory, thus giving Richie McCaw license to cheat without fear in the 50-60 metre zone.
Backyard advantage, more savvy cheating, and a slight edge in guile in the outside backs have this as a home win for me
B&M Prediction: All Blacks by 7
Spotter's Badge: Referee repeatedly ignores Brad Thorn leading with his elbow like an 18 stone Dalek on exterminate mode.
New Zealand: M Muliaina (Chiefs); C Jane (Hurricanes), C Smith (Hurricanes), M Nonu (Hurricanes), J Rokocoko (Blues); D Carter (Crusaders), J Cowan (Highlanders); T Woodcock (Blues), K Mealamu (Blues), O Franks (Crusaders), B Thorn (Crusaders), T Donnelly (Highlanders), J Kaino (Blues), R McCaw (Crusaders, capt), K Read (Crusaders)
Replacements: C Flynn (Crusaders), B Franks (Crusaders), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), L Messam (Chiefs), P Weepu (Hurricanes), A Cruden (Hurricanes), R Kahui (Chiefs)
South Africa: Z Kirchner (Bulls); J de Villiers (Western Province), J Fourie (Stormers), W Olivier (Bulls), B Habana (Stormers); M Steyn (Bulls), R Januarie (Stormers); G Steenkamp (Bulls), J Smit (Sharks, capt), J du Plessis (Sharks), B Botha (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), F Louw (Stormers), P Spies (Bulls)
Replacements: C Ralepelle (Bulls), BJ Botha (Ulster), A Bekker (Stormers), D Rossouw (Bulls), R Pienaar (Sharks), B James (Bath), G Aplon (Stormers)