Above: The All Blacks may not out-sing the Welsh, but they will be hoping to beat them on Friday night in the third-fourth playoff. PHOTO: Getty Images via NZR media.
- By Kevin McCarthy
Next comes the great Convulsion. You’ll remember the last one, when we crashed out of the Rugby World Cup in 2007 in the catastrophe in Cardiff.
You may think the seismic loss to England is being greeted with a degree of maturity. Almost calm. That’s because the shock was so great, the patient is still numb.
Just you wait a while. I don’t think we’ll get remotely close to the bloodletting of 2007 and beyond, but there will be a purging. And that’s a good thing.
A Welsh friend described New Zealand’s loss as like a Terminator movie. The rest of the world will blast great holes in us, they’ll think the monster is dead. But no, after not very long, here comes the Terminator, revitalised and deadly again. That’s the genius of New Zealand rugby.
But that’s only going to really happen effectively if there’s that convulsion first.
Besides 2007, which after all gave birth to perhaps the greatest era of All Blacks dominance, I’d mention the arrival of professional rugby in 1995, and reaching further back, the first-ever Lions series win in New Zealand in 1971. And you could toss in 1986, the Cavaliers, and the Baby Blacks.
Am I exaggerating to put the English victory in that context. I don’t think so. Just about anyone who is anyone – and most likely you – are still dumbfounded by how good the English were. The All Blacks have often spoken of playing the perfect game, for the full 80 minutes, but have never achieved it.
Yet the English did. And no-one can remember the All Blacks ever failing to land any punches, failed to even execute anything like a coherent plan.
This was not therefore an ordinary, run of the mill loss. The team was not playing at the fag end of the season in the North, or caught napping in some dead rubber. This was a semi-final of the world cup.
So bring on the convulsion. Do a thorough review, and ask the tough and brutal questions. Don’t spare the coaches because, at least in Hansen’s case, it’s the end of a glittering coaching career.
Some how we’ve got it terribly wrong. So what do we do now. Well, New Zealand rugby does what it always does. It reboots. It comes back.
So the next few years are going to be very exciting, very unpredictable. Let’s salute the English, and you know, a few years, we may well be thanking them for launching another great All Black era.
There’s another game of footy still to go. Well, strictly two, and despite New Zealand and Wales making positive noises about the Bronze Final, we all know it will be a very underwhelming match proving nothing.
As to the final, on paper and on form, England are warm favourites of course. Not exactly where they want to be.
The Boks will presumably turn up with pretty much exactly the same game plan.
In which case, it could be quite a dour affair, with England actually the side wanting to attack more than defend.
The mind games haven’t quite started, but I am picking that Eddie Jones will goad the Springboks to be more adventurous and run the ball. It’s what Australia did with England in the 1991 final, which misfired horribly on the home side.
I doubt the Boks will fall for that but they probably do realise that Faf De Klerk box kicks will not alone be enough.
It’s hard to pick an area where South Africa can unravel England yet they will have to find one. Perhaps it will come down to the old maxim of playing the final in the semi-final, and that the Red Roses’ biggest threat is themselves.
No shame but a ton of frustration for the Lions in losing to the Mako in the National Provincial Championship final.
Who would have given them a chance of even being there after the round one drubbing by the same team.
The frustration is of course that for large parts of the game, the Lions were dominant but unable to decisively pull back the big early lead they gifted Tasman before switching on.
Compared to only a few seasons ago, when Wellington were languishing in the Championship bottom tier and struggling to get promotion, the change in fortunes is great work.
Now the fans have lifted their expectations. So watch out for next season.
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