All Blacks Undoubted Champions?
By Roger Childs
Yes and No.
New Zealand won all six of their matches and the next best were South Africa and Australia with two apiece.
Argentina failed to win a match and can be compared to the Italian team in the Northern Hemisphere six nations: they are often competitive in the first half of matches and get the occasional victory, but are not in the same league as the others.
The All Blacks did have a clean sweep, but two of the matches were very close.
Not having it all their own way
The New Zealand side played brilliantly in the first 50 minutes against the Wallabies in Sydney, and then at Albany three weeks ago, they blew the Springboks away 57-0 . These performances saw the All Blacks at their imperious best, however, the second encounters with the two teams were very different.
At Forsyth Barr Dunedin, the Aussies very nearly upset the World champions and it took a brilliant try by Beauden Barrett in the final minutes to give the home team the win.
Then last Saturday the South Africans scored a late try to bring them within a point of the All Blacks, in a thrilling 25-24 encounter.
So while they remain the best side, the All Blacks are not miles head of the best of the rest.
Building to the 2019 World Cup
It’s exactly two years to the big tournament in Japan and the New Zealand coaches are bringing on younger players to blend with the experienced core in the squad.
Barring injury, the final team will be built around the likes of Kieran Read, Dane Coles, Brody Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett and Ryan Crotty.
The Cape Town test at the weekend showed that there is plenty of the new talent stepping up. Two of the All Black tries were scored from long range runs by two of the fastest players on the planet: Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie.
Also impressing, coming off the bench, were David Havilli at fullback and prop, Ofa Tu’ungafasi.
In the starting front row there were two props who are new to international rugby in 2017. Nepo Laulala and Kane Hames more that held their own in the rather messy scrum encounters.
Experimenting in the tests ahead
In a couple of weeks times there is a third test against the Wallabies in Brisbane and then in November the team heads for the United Kingdom for four internationals.
The All Backs coaches will use theses matches to try new combinations and some of the impressive performers in the National Provincial Championships (NPC) may get their chance to make the squad.
The northern tour is the ideal opportunity to blood new players and the very talented Wellington hooker, Asafo Aumua, is very likely to feature. The best Taranaki and Canterbury players will also be pressing their claims.
One thing is not in doubt, there is no shortage of rugby talent in New Zealand and the NPC is a wonderful breeding ground for the All Blacks of the future.