Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Myth of All Black Supremacy

There is this romanticism that is associated with NZ rugby supporters. We look at today's pampered AB's arguing that they have no mental toughness, cannot win the big ones, are not up to it when the pressure is on. We look back on the 'hard men' of NZ rugby in the 'good old days' and we pine for former glories. 'If they had had world cups in the good ol' days, we would have won them all'! Yeah right.

Track back into the archives and the AB's have always dominated (as they do now actually) but they had some really tough times and lost matches unexpectedly. Our best period was clearly the 60's but we still lost surprisingly to South Africa in 1960 at home, to the Aussies in 1964 in the third test (a shocker), drew against Scotland 0-0 in 1964, lost to the Springboks in 1965 in the third test when way ahead at half time. From 1965 to 1969 they were unbeaten, a time in which we possibly would have won the world cup. However, as 1970 showed, we may have lost if we had played in South Africa.

The 1970's were hit and miss. We lost to the South Africans in 1970, the Lions in 1971, drew with Ireland and lost to France and England in 1973, drew with the Aussies in the second test in 1974, lost to the Springboks in 1976, lost a test against the Lions and the French in 1977, lost the third test on Eden Park to the Aussies in 1978 and the French in 1979. We can't say we would have won a world cup in this time, we struggled with all countries at some time or another.

In the 1980's we were more dominant but still had our moments. We were beaten thoroughly by the Aussies in 1980, just pipped the Springboks in 1981, lost a test to the Aussies in 1980, drew with Scotland and lost to England in 1983 after losing a test to the Lions in 1983, lost the first test in Australia in 1984. In 1986 the Cavaliers were beaten by the Springboks, Australia took the Bledisloe 2-1 and we lost to the French. We then won the world cup! We had a good few years after this only drawing once with the Aussies until 1990 when we lost again to them.

The point is that we still had bad days where we did not front up. The difference was, that none of these fell in the final three knockout games of a World Cup. Hence, even though our record now is similar to the 'good ol' days', the World Cup now occurs.

Tracking back, we may have won in 1983, we had a really good team. Remember though, that we lost to the English in 1982, South Africa were always powerful, and the French could beat anyone on the day. Not to mention the Aussies who, with their full team, were powerful.

In 1979, I am not sure we would have won. We lost to the Aussies in the third test in 1978 and they thrashed us in 1980. The South Africans had beaten us in 1976. The French beat us once that same year and once in 1977. England beat us in 1979. I really wouldn't be sure at all.'

In 1975 we played one water-logged test, lost to the South Africans in 1976 and would have faced the powerful British teams, fresh off a good hammering of the Springboks on their home track in 1974. The French had blitzed us in 1973, as had England. I think we would not have won a 1975 world cup.

In 1971 there is no way we would have won whereever it was played. Wales would have had to be favourites with Edwards-John-JPR Williams in full flight, if their forwards were up to it. The year before the Springboks had demolished us completely. The Irish drew with us in 1973, the French beat us. I can't see NZ having won the world cup in 1971. South Africa or Wales were most likely, the Irish too, were strong (McBride-Gibson).

So 1967? Yes, we had a great team under Fred the Needle and may have pulled this one off. Remember though the South Africa were always strong in those days. If it had been played on the Veldt, I am sure they would have been almost unbeatable, as in 1970.

In 1963 it would have been another possible victory, with NZ and SA dominant. Aussie did pull out a one-off in 1964, and on the tour of Britain did not 'put the opposition away', all games were tight and close.

So we really need to get a realistic look at out ourselves. Sure, we pulled out some great teams and we were dominant, but we still are. Our record in the last 4 years is sensational. If Graham H, John H, John M or Laurie M had pulled off a WCup, they would be beside Fred the Needle in the pantheon of glory! What is to say that these other teams would not have 'choked' and failed to pull off the big one. Any world cups in South Africa would have been almost certainly won by them. Perhaps the same could be said in the 1960's, but we cannot be sure.

It might have gone like this:
1963: South Africa or NZ probably
1967: NZ but maybe South Africa, depending on where played
1971: South Africa or Wales (England and Ireland also strong)
1975: France, Wales, England, Ireland or South Africa. NZ a distant outside
1979: Australia, France, NZ, South Africa, England: anyone's guess
1983: NZ, South Africa, England, Australia

You can see, we really are a romantic lot! Who knows? We need to get over ourselves. We are a great rugby nation who are dominant. But where World Cups are concerned, can anyone ever be sure?

Note too, that if we go back to the 1950's and beyond, it was even more of a lottery. South Africa and Wales especially would have been tough to beat.

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