After another night at Heartbreak Hotel the All Black’s must be wondering if they will ever win back the Bledisloe Cup. Just as in 2000 and 2001 they competed all the way, gave everything, and defended grimly but were ultimately defeated by the Wallabies’ supreme belief that they would win the game.
With 15 minutes to go you could feel Australia lifting, and their vision becoming crystal clear as they were boosted by the collective memory of those famous victories of 2000 and 2001. They knew the situation well, they knew what they had to do and their belief was the cement that held the building blocks of victory in place. You could sense that the Wallabies expected to win, while the All Blacks hoped they could hang on.
Winners expect to win, losers hope to win.
What has become of the All Blacks legendary ability to not only hold teams out but to also come from behind in big games and win? It seems now that even holding out teams is asking for too much. Who wants to remember the 1999 World Cup semi-final when leading 24-10 after two epic Jonah Lomu tries, France scored 33 unanswered points and a 43-31 win. Then there were the losses to South Africa and France again in 2000 when both times the All Blacks were ahead in the second half. Now 3 years in a row the Bledisloe is gone in 60 seconds.
Without this edge the All Black legend is no longer so fearsome, who is scared of the All Blacks? not Australia, not France, not South Africa, and probably not England.
If you want to win a game you had better score some points
After being so close against Australia the last 2 years as well as in Christchurch this year it seemed obvious that in order to beat the Wallabies it would be important to build a reasonable lead and be ready for Australia’s last quarter fight back. This strategy would mean having our most deadly attackers on the field and ensuring swift service to the backs.
Instead Jonah Lomu was left out of the 22 and Byron Kelleher’s slick passing stayed on the bench. Its seems that the game plan was to go out there and try not to lose, this is very different from going out to win.
The biggest risk is never to take a risk.
Now it’s off to South Africa and the All Blacks are in exactly the same situation as they were in 2000 - they need to beat South Africa and hope Australia doesn’t.
I must admit I’m worried, South Africa showed against Australia they have some outstanding talent and a great desire to play attacking positive rugby. Players like Andre Pretorius, Johannes Conradie, Marius Joubert, Werner Greeff, Joe van Niekerk and Brent Russell are world class and are steadily building the skills and attitude needed to not only beat the All Blacks but also win the World Cup.
The hard ground in Durban should provide a great spectacle of running rugby and with the crowd screaming for All Black blood the Springboks will be hard to beat.
There is no doubt in my mind that the All Blacks have the talent needed to win the World Cup as well as bring all the other trophies back to New Zealand. Most of the players needed are there now, the goal now must be to win by playing attacking rugby, by being prepared to take the big risk, and having the courage to believe.