There was once a time when the big three in the southern hemisphere occupied the top three positions in the World rugby rankings. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia once formed a trio that ruled the rugby world challenging one another to continue getting better time and time again.
In recent years, two of the teams have slumped in their form making it a one horse race when it comes to anything rugby related in the south. The Wallabies have dropped to their lowest reach and the Springboks are also struggling to recover from a shambolic Allister Coetzee era.
This has been a very jovial time for the All Blacks who have collected all the silverware but in the long run, this has affected their game and exposure as they continue to play the same teams often.
This has been proven right by recent exploits on their visit to the Northern hemisphere; a narrow 16-15 victory against the English in which they looked average and were outscored in terms of tries and a loss to Ireland where they looked to have lost the plot in a 16-9 shut out in Dublin.
Steve Hansen, coach of the All Blacks, echoed this sentiment when he said “Australia are under performing, leaving South Africa as the only southern hemisphere country providing the All Blacks with the top flight opposition they need.
Hansen added that their big Bledisloe Cup wins this year came against a team who “are not quite right” and weren’t at the same level as international heavyweights South Africa, England and Ireland.
The manner in which the world number one side lost to Ireland has surely sent Hansen and co. back to the drawing board as the All Blacks looked narrow in their attacks and kicked the ball away a lot in what seemed like speculation for chances. The Irish gave the world the blueprint on how to beat New Zealand and showed rugby that Barrett and the rest of the men in black are actually human.
The All Blacks have scored just one try in two games in the North; a stat that hasn’t been heard of in decades which left many questioning the quality of opposition in the rugby championship as fellow southern hemisphere teams also fell to teams from the north. Rugby among the six nation sides might be criticized for its lack of “flavor” but they know their strengths and how to win, and that’s what counts.
Steve Hansen and a rugby fanatic nation in New Zealand will be worried if not rattled with less than a year from the rugby world cup.
Hansen had a lot to say on the matter,adding that, “I still believe Australia are a really good rugby side. – “There is definitely something missing because they are not quite right and are not performing to the level they can.” – “But the more we play teams like South Africa, Ireland and England, France which we have done this year it is good for us.
Rugby pundits on the other hand have chosen not to sugar coat matter as many have come out to label southern hemisphere competitions as weak; senior rugby journalist Gregor Paul of the New Zealand Herald labelled the Bledisloe Cup Tests as the “weakest currency” in top tier international rugby.
Paul said the All Blacks will suffer a slow malaise if Australian teams can’t unearth greater quality at Test and Super Rugby level. This has been evident at franchise level in the super rugby where Australian teams have been awful to watch with viewership of games dropping due to a lack of competition, it’s almost predictable to say that a New Zealand franchise will win super rugby year after year.
Something has to change or else this cancer will affect the All Blacks as well – competition is good.