All Blacks-Boks ri­valry at low point

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - MARC HIN­TON

OPIN­ION: How many drub­bings must the All Blacks hand out be­fore the Spring­boks lose their sta­tus as this na­tion’s great­est rugby ri­val? That point must be aw­fully close.

On Satur­day night at QBE Sta­dium the All Blacks ran in eight tries to smash the Spring­boks 57-0. It was their largest ever win­ning mar­gin since the two na­tions played their first test back in 1921, and equalled the high­est score posted against the long-time ad­ver­sary (both achieved was last year).

It was a fab­u­lous per­for­mance from an All Blacks side which mixed with­er­ing de­fence with scin­til­lat­ing at­tack. One side shone like a bea­con. The other sunk like a stone.

The All Blacks have long con­sid­ered the Spring­boks their great­est ri­vals. One of the most vivid im­ages of the pro­fes­sional era is of a spent New Zealand cap­tain Sean Fitz­patrick drop­ping to the turf and thump­ing it in ex­hausted cel­e­bra­tion after se­cur­ing the first ever test se­ries vic­tory in South Africa in 1996.

It was hard earned, bru­tal, and com­pelling as a con­test. It re­ally meant some­thing be­cause it was so damn dif­fi­cult.

Vic­to­ries over the Boks have al­ways rep­re­sented some­thing spe­cial to the All Blacks, al­though they cover their bases by nom­i­nat­ing the Bledis­loe Cup as the tro­phy they most trea­sure out­side the Webb El­lis Cup.

But you can now make a case that the All Blacks-Boks is no longer a ri­valry as such. More like an own­er­ship.

The All Blacks have won 14 of their last 16 tests against the South Africans, 10 of their last 11, and their last five on the bounce. They haven’t lost at home to the men in green since 2009 in Hamil­ton and even in the repub­lic they have won four of their last five.

Does that sound like a gen­uine ri­valry to you? Maybe there is still life in it. But maybe it is on its fi­nal legs.

The Spring­boks will have more say on that than the All Blacks. New Zealand con­tinue to set the stan­dard in the test game; the onus is on the South Africans to match that level of per­for­mance.

The All Blacks have won their last three tests against the South Africans 57-0, 57-15 and 41-13. I say again, does that sound like a ri­valry to you?

You can ac­tu­ally make a case that Ireland and Eng­land have be­come the All Blacks’ great­est ri­vals in the cur­rent era. Granted, we’re not talk­ing the best part of 100 years here, but in re­cent times the English and Ir­ish have pre­sented as much more dif­fi­cult foes than the Boks.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is adamant the ri­valry is alive and kick­ing, even if the score­board might sug­gest other­wise.

‘‘I know the ef­fort our guys put in to pre­par­ing for South Africa,’’ he says. ‘‘You can feel it. There is a lit­tle more sting in it. It would be nice to get that ev­ery week. Our guys have a mas­sive re­spect for them as a rugby na­tion, and that’s why we pre­pare so well for it.’’

Added All Blacks open­side Sam Cane: ‘‘There is that gen­uine fear when we play the Boks that we have to be near the top of our game to get what we want. There is an edge about it. We’re al­ready think­ing in three weeks’ time they will be a dif­fer­ent beast over there. They will be hurt­ing.’’

Look, there is more to a ri­valry than just a string of scores. Re­spect, his­tory, tra­di­tion all form part of it. It’s the play­ers that make it a ri­valry with their at­ti­tude and ap­proach. And it is they who will ul­ti­mately end it.

When the All Blacks no longer fear the Boks, this ri­valry will be over. They don’t ap­pear to be at that point yet. But they are closer to it to­day than they were yes­ter­day.

The ball is very much in the Boks court to breathe some life back into this flag­ging con­test. Start­ing in Cape Town.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

The Spring­boks had no an­swer to the All Blacks’ on­slaught.

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