All Blacks can be beaten, but …

Batter the All Blacks up front, and turn their back three with astute kicks combined with a brilliant chase, and they can be beaten. MUCH easier written in a column than done on the field though!

Tank Lanning in his first column for the Ultimate Rugby App

Super Rugby might be a smidgen bloated and like the current ODI cricket format, somewhat tedious and dull in the middle stages, but my word, it delivered a final between the Waratahs and Crusaders that made for magnificent entertainment.

And while it would be a little unfair to expect the same ball in hand, all out attacking intent at the highest level of the game, I am really looking forward to what I believe will be a much closer Rugby Championship than we saw in the first 2 iterations of the tournament.

The All Blacks are yet to lose a Rugby Championship game, Argentina are yet to win one, while the Boks and Aussies have played supporting roles with 6 and 5 wins respectively. Prior to that, the All Blacks won 50 out of 72 Tri-Nations games, the Aussies 29 and the Boks 28. To be honest, it has been the Men in Black show – no mean feat against the 2 sides that battle with England to make up the top three rugby sides in the world!

In fact, no member of the current Aussie squad has touched the Bledisloe Cup – the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy – which they surrendered to the All Blacks way back in 2003. And if the All Blacks win on Saturday, it would be a world record 18th consecutive Test win. They are currently equal with the 1965-1969 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks, who won 17 Tests in a row.

More of the same this year? Highly likely, but perhaps in a slightly less dominant fashion?

Under coach Ewen McKenzie, the Wallabies are on an 8 game winning streak themselves, and are playing some really good rugby. That streak excludes games against the All Blacks and Springboks, though, so this will be their real test.

But following the success of the Waratahs in the provincial arena, and given that the Aussies have found some sort of a scrum – a traditional weakness of theirs, together with an extraordinary fetcher in Michael Hooper, a solid half back combination and phenomenal striker in Israel Folau, they now have the game to at least challenge the All Blacks at home.

I am not sure McKenzie has it right this weekend though. He has gone with Kurtley Beale at flyhalf with Bernard Foley on the bench. Why mess with what has worked so well for the Tahs? Benn Robinson should be starting at loosehead, yet is not in the squad, Paddy Ryan should be on the bench way ahead of journeyman Ben Alexander, while I would start Will Skelton in a World XV at the moment. All Blacks to deservedly take that record I think.

The Boks will again play a blunt force trauma game – one that still works at international level with the 15 best players in the land, but quite obviously less so at provincial rugby where resources are thinner and conditioning has seen the opposition match the South Africans in size, power and strength.

The future of the game is ball in hand, offloading in the tackle while using the width of the field, but this requires skill and extraordinary conditioning. Two things currently missing from the Bok game. But with the likes of Bismarck du Pessis, Bakkies Botha, Eben Etzebeth, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen in the mix, who needs skill? Up front dominance, pace and finishing from Bryan Habana and Cornal Hendricks, and world class skills from Willie le Roux will keep these Boks in the hunt for silverware. For now …

Argentina will be tricky to beat at home, but like the Italians in the 6 Nations, they just do not have the depth or player resources to truly compete at the highest level yet

Write these All Blacks off at your peril though. Some did after they battled to a narrow win against England in the first of their 3 June Tests, and were made to look rather silly. They are perhaps a little short at lock, but in Richie McCaw, Kieren Read, Aaron Smith, Bauden Barrett (even though the selectors prefer Aaron Cruden), Malakai Fekitoa (even though the selectors prefer Ma’a Nonu), Conrad Smith, Cory Jane and Ben Smith, they remain proper world beaters, and the team to beat.

Take them on – and beat them up front, and turn their back three with astute kicks combined with a brilliant chase, and they can be beaten. Easier written in a column than done though!

The Rugby Championship fixtures:

Saturday, August 16 2014

12:05 – Australia vs New Zealand, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

17:00 – South Africa vs Argentina, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Saturday, August 23 2014

09:35 – New Zealand vs Australia, Eden Park, Auckand

21:40 – Argentina vs South Africa, Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta

Saturday, September 06 2014

09:35 – New Zealand vs Argentina, McLean Park, Napier

12:05 – Australia vs South Africa, Patersons Stadium, Perth

Saturday, September 13 2014

09:35 – New Zealand vs South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

12:05 – Australia vs Argentina, Cbus Stadium, Gold Coast

Saturday, September 27 2014

17:00 – South Africa vs Australia, Newlands, Cape Town

Sunday, September 28 2014

00:40 – Argentina vs New Zealand, Estadio Ciudad de la Plata, La Plata

Saturday, October 4 2014

17:00 – South Africa v sNew Zealand, Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Sunday, October 5 2014

00:40 – Argentina vs Australia, Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza

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