The rugby world was recently rocked by a turn of events that screams of realism, the art of carrying a bigger stick than the other guy.
The Springboks, the current world champions (which we love bragging about to the consternation of our Kiwi cousins) have always been a team that has bucketloads of potential but seems to bash their way to success.
Sure, it works and has worked for ages, but saying that South Africa offer more brawn then brain would be an injustice to the likes of Bryan Habana, Jacque Fourie, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (who doesn’t side-step but rather swerves) and even Frans “just a beer short of a six pack” Steyn have oodles of potential to cause opponents pain and discomfort.
This, chucked in with “The General” (not sure who called him that first) Fourie du Preez, leaves quite a formidable team that could employ a Plan B if Plan A (the forward-orientated approach) didn’t work so well. If you have Morne Steyn to kick the hide off the ball, Plan A is the only plan.
In all the euphoria of the Springboks domination of the All Blacks over the last two weekends, many out and in the Land of the Long White Cloud have predicted doom for the men in black.
Am I missing something? All because the All Blacks have one bad year, in between the many, many good ones, many people are writing them off. Yes, we know Dan Carter was the creative force that drove their crazy side of 2004, 2005, 2006 and most of 2007 (except for that one game in Paris).
But, even with Stephen Donald at flyhalf and no Chris Jack of Carl Hayman in the forwards, they are the All Blacks.
No other team looks cooler — whoever decided they should wear all black had some fashion sense even half a century ago — no other team can play total rugby (the Aussies always seem to be half way there. You know which half of their team I am referring to) and no other team does a war dance before every international fixture.
Seasoned opponents, like the bemused faces the Springboks showed before their Bloemfontein clash, know what to expect but just imagine being a rookie facing the Haka? The only reason you aren’t worried is because you don’t have any idea what you are up against.
Rugby is war on certain levels, with both sides always looking to dominate the ball, their opponent and the scoreboard. The Haka is the perfect example of why New Zealand are the greatest rugby nation on earth: they see it as war, and while other teams see it that way when faced by a swarm of black jerseys, the same intensity isn’t matched when the All Blacks aren’t involved.
The All Blacks are the closest thing rugby has to ninjas: fearsome, agile, fast and they can hit you out of nowhere. Even when the team was playing well below its best, Isaac Ross managed to score a try that left many South Africans thinking “oh crap, here we go again”.
No other side has dismantled the Springboks as badly as the All Blacks on South African soil. I remember watching them destroy the Springboks 52-16 on a bright and sunny day in Pretoria. It was graceful, it was scary and it was damn good rugby.
There is a saying in Test cricket that there is never a bad Australian team. The same applies to their cousins across the sea. While the All Blacks are prone to an error every now and then, by goodness, they are the definition of rugby at their peak. If I wasn’t born a South African, I’d be a New Zealander.
The 2011 World Cup is going to be hosted in New Zealand and while I want the Boks to win, a little piece of me hopes that if it isn’t the Boks, then the All Blacks deserve to fulfil their destiny. They have given us joy and destruction on the rugby field at the same time, and may they continue to do so for the years to come.
There is no opponent I respect or fear more then the All Blacks. They will never die …