New Zealand’s All Blacks are poised to secure yet another Rugby Championship title as they take on South Africa on Saturday morning.
In what has been a pedestrian stroll for the world champions, taking three wins from three in a combined score of 128-39, beating the Springboks today will see the 14-game streaking All Blacks wrap up the title without ever having been challenged during the series and with two games still to play.
Following the loss of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter after the Rugby World Cup last year, there was a fear amongst fans and a hope amongst rivals that the mighty All Blacks might fall back into the realm of the beatable. Skipping on twelve months and it is clear the All Blacks assembly line is still in perfect working order.
As New Zealand cruise to victory in the 2016 championship, former boss and 2011 World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry has given a scathing review of their rivals, Australia and South Africa, and issued a stark warning over the state of world rugby.
Describing South Africa as ‘woeful’ and Australia team as ‘the worst I have ever seen’, Henry’s assessment of New Zealand’s traditional rivals is made more with regret and than happiness.
Reported in the New Zealand Herald, Henry says:
“We haven’t played South Africa yet, but they got beaten by Australia and they are woeful. I think it’s probably the worst Australian team I have ever seen and that’s a real worry for the game.
“You want Australia playing rugby and you want Australia playing well. And you want South Africa to be doing the same thing. But South Africa have probably lost half of their tests over the last three years.
“Australia looked okay at the  World Cup but have fallen away badly this year. We really need these sides to be competitive to create interest in the game and bring crowds.
“The general supporter who likes great games of rugby has some concerns, and rightly so.
“In New Zealand, everything is in place for the All Blacks to be the best they can be, but in South Africa, there are major political issues [in the game] and in Australia, you have three other sports seen as bigger than rugby and, if they don’t win, guys are not going to play [the sport].”
While the All Blacks will not worry themselves with the fortunes of their rivals, and rightly so, it is becoming clear that as their southern hemisphere rivals flounder and Europe’s top teams continue to search for the answer to beating the world’s best side, the focus of British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will surely be fixed squarely on the All Blacks.
What he will see will likely give him much food for thought. As the mighty islanders glide into a new era of dominance without the McCaws, Carters or Smiths, the same question is posed. How can any team beat a New Zealand XV that can contain the best of the rest without ever really leaving second gear?
Gatland now has nine months to figure it out. If he doesn’t, going on the current form of the rampaging world champions, the Lions tour could be a very uncomfortable experience.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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