The All Blacks have swept all before them in 2016, with Wales, Australia and most recently Argentina all comprehensively defeated.
As another unbeaten year grows in probability, we wonder what would happen if the All Blacks were separated into two Island of Origin teams – North and South. And which team would win in a face-off?
We divided the players below into North and South teams on the basis of where they were born or completed their secondary education.
15. Israel Dagg
Dagg plays for the Crusaders in the Super 18 but was born in the small north island town of Marton. When Dagg has his swagg (sic), he’s world class.
14. Nehe Milner Scudder
Hasn’t been sighted since a serious shoulder injury in the early rounds of the Super 18 but was electric last year in the World Cup. Interestingly, he was born in ‘Gumboot city’ in Taihape – which may explain his lightning footwork when he escapes into his lighter footy boots.
13. Rieko Ioane
The wunderkind with the Japanese first name is on a fast track for All Blacks stardom having made the extended squad at the tender age of 19. He’s a sevens star with a Israel Folau-like game.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
Like Ioane, SBW is an Auckland born and raised superstar. Another hampered by injury this year, but he’s also a big match player with freakish skills and power.
11. Julian Savea
When ‘the Bus’ was, well, a mini-bus, he terrorised skinny schoolboys in Wellington. Now back to his destructive best under the nurturing eye of Steve Hansen, he’s a must for the left wing.
10. Beauden Barrett
He’s undisputedly the best player in the world at present and on such a hot run of form that freakish tries seem almost inevitable in every game. Keeps out his fellow Northern raised fly-halfs Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga out of the team.
9. Aaron Smith
The best half back in the world might play for the Southern Highlanders, but he was born and raised in the central North Island All Black hotspot of Fielding. First in a long line of skilled Northern halfbacks.
8. Kieran Read
You’d think the captain of the Canterbury Crusaders should be in the Southern team but – and this will come as a shock to many hardboiled Southern fans – Read was born in Papakura, Auckland! However, the unbeaten captain of the All Blacks is far from JAFA (Just Another Bleeping Aucklander), he’s also our North captain.
7. Sam Cane
A difficult call, but we’ve plumped for Bay of Plenty’s Sam Cane ahead of Julian’s lil bro Ardie in the North no.7. Cane’s all-round game management sees him still slightly ahead of the afro-ed dynamo from Wellington.
6. Jerome Kaino
Kaino was born in American Samoa but moved to Kieran Read’s home suburb of Papakura (obviously one tough suburb) when he was four. Let’s repeat that: four. All you pacific player poaching trolls sit down.
5. Sam Whitelock
Another All Black raised in Fielding and poached by Southern rugby sides. In fact, the entire Whitelock clan (4 brothers) have played for Canterbury sides.
4. Michael Fatialofa
Interestingly, lock forward positions were the ones in which it was difficult to find candidates. Auckland-raised Fatialofa had an excellent season with the title-winning Hurricanes and must be on the brink of All Blacks selection.
3. Charlie Faumuina
A South Auckland-raised prop with silky skills and an eye for the tryline.
2. Dane Coles
Born, raised and schooled in a beachside suburb of Wellington. It seems that Wellington inspires loyalty for life despite its questionable weather.
1. Atu Moli
Another difficult position to fill as all the props in New Zealand seem to have been born in Christchurch. Moli is an up-and-coming young prop who tips the scales at 127kg and represents the Chiefs, his home province.
15. Ben Smith
Challenging Barrett as the best player in the world and this born, raised and educated Scarfie (Dunedinite) is the easiest selection in the South team. As he pops up everywhere on the field, he’s also the perfect choice to lead the Southern men against the flash foe from the North.
14. Damian McKenzie
Raised in Southland, the whiz kid from the Chiefs might play for the Chiefs, and might predominantly play full back – but we had to have him on the field somewhere.
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
Born in Christchurch and raised in the famed Christchurch Boys High School (Brodie Retallick and Daniel Carter’s school), he has all the pedigree to be a long-term fixture in the All Blacks. He also showed considerable poise with an accurate and confident debut against Australia in the second Bledisloe game.
12. Ryan Crotty
Crotty has come of age this year, cementing his place in the All Black backline with a series of intelligent, powerful performances.
11. Johnny McNichol
A pacy and elusive wing who has been on the fringes of All Black selection after impressive Super 18 performances for the Crusaders. We’d tear up his contract with Welsh club Scarlets and give him a big stage to showcase his talents.
10. Ritchie Mo’unga
Although he’s very young, Mo’unga showed incredible poise and promise filling the golden boots of Daniel Carter for the Crusaders this season. A dependable kicker, stronger defender and elusive runner, a bit of that Carter magic might just have rubbed off.
9. Andy Ellis
It seems that where the South has the lumbering props, the North has the snappy halfbacks. Ellis may be in the evening shade of his career now, but he is still a very skilful and combative halfback.
8. Elliot Dixon
Dixon is now an All Black, and while he hasn’t been sighted since the Wales series, his versatility means he will feature strongly in Hansen’s plans for the next World Cup.
7. Matt Todd
A skilful, dependable player who might’ve had 50 caps if a certain other no. 7 from the South had not stood in his way. He’s still only 28, and we think he can tame Cane.
6. Tom Sanders
A difficult position to fill, but 22-year-old, Little River-raised Sanders has been starring for Canterbury in the ITM Cup and was a New Zealand U20 representative.
5. Luke Romano
Romano edges out Patrick Tuipulotu in this strongly contested position. Both are All Blacks and Christchurch-born.
4. Brodie Retallick
2014 World Player of the Year was another famous graduate of Christchurch Boys High School and he joins a powerful All Black dominated tight five.
3. Owen Franks
Eighty three tests. Canterbury-born. Enough said!
2. Jesse MacDonald
MacDonald hails plays for the Tasman club in the ITM Cup. It seems there is also a dearth of hookers in the South with the top four All Black prospects (Coles, Taylor, Parsons, Coltman) all hailing from the North.
1. Joe Moody
All Black incumbent prop. Canterbury-born. Could be a missing Franks brother.
So if it came down to a head to head, which team would win? Where do you see the strengths and weaknesses in each team?
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena