With the All Blacks, the question is not if they will win but by how much. The mighty New Zealand national side that won this year’s rugby union world cup on home turf is always expected to thrash the opposition in a case of “All Blacks 85, Try Hards 0”.
Even when rival teams refuse to choke and, instead, play well, they still lose, rolled by the relentless All Blacks juggernaut. How do the All Blacks sustain their powerhouse dominance? Here are 10 clues.
1. Flying start
The first New Zealand team was selected in 1884, for a tour to New South Wales, Australia. The team went unbeaten there. Prop James Allan, who played consistently for the 19th-century team, has been immortalized as All Black No 1. His side’s superb start set a pattern.
2. Young blood
Rugby captivates Kiwi kids. Once the sport has a grip, it is not allowed to let go. Community programs drive home the key skills: catch, pass, run, dodge. Even three-year-olds play a diluted version of the game, called Rippa Rugby.
3. Relentless perfectionism
All Blacks coaches are devoted to making the All Blacks the best. Any new tactical idea is judged on one standard – whether it works. If so, it wins adoption. If not, it is dropped.
4. Global recognition
Across the world – even in countries like Turkey – you can always find some sources who know that “All Black” means “New Zealand Rugby International”. Playing for the All Blacks brings a sportsman enormous recognition and status. Wearing the black jersey carries more weight than being Prime Minister, it is said.
5. Proud tradition
All Blacks players are steeped in team tradition. The thinking is that, if they let down the team, they will rile the ghosts of bravehearts past who wore the jersey.
6. National obsession
Rugby is New Zealand’s obsession, easily edging out, well – whatever else there is to do in New Zealand. Immeasurable resources are channeled into the full-contact sport that demands tremendous strength and stamina.
7. Haka heft
The “haka”, the Maori war dance that the All Blacks perform in front of the enemy (sorry, opposition) is a stunning sight.
Based on bulging eyeballs, wagging tongues, jumping and roaring, it suggests that the All Blacks plan to eat their rivals alive. Opponents are duly rattled and ripe for demoralization in the coming All Blacks onslaught.
8. Maori muscle
Those Maori islanders who stud the All Blacks team are huge. That makes them hard to stop or barge out the way. Take mighty Maori, Jonah Lomu. Near impossible to tackle, he became the Rugby
World Cup all-time top try scorer with 15 tries. See him scythe through the opposition, fending off tackles in this classic clip.
9. Small country syndrome
Never say this to a Kiwi’s face, but another reason that the team plays so hard and the whole country gets behind it may be, well, to compensate. New Zealand’s population is tiny – just over four million: less than London’s.
Kiwis are just naturally good at rugby. They just are.
They take to it the way Brazilians excel at soccer. See the Kiwi try machine in action.