Home > Sport > Other Sports
Sunday October 6, 2013 MYT 6:37:02 AM
Sunday October 6, 2013 MYT 6:52:48 AM
by mark gleeson
New Zealand's All Blacks players lift their trophy after winning the final round of the Rugby Championship against South Africa at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg October 5, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The world of rugby will be taking cumulative deep breath after the thriller in Johannesburg on Saturday but while the action was a perfect advertisement for the game, the result will send shudders around those hoping to de-throne the All Blacks.
New Zealand's superiority showed yet again despite the best efforts of South Africa in the decisive game in the Rugby Championship.
The 38-27 win not only handed the All Blacks yet another piece of silverware but also emphasised their position as the sport's undisputed masters.
It is a status that is difficult to see anyone challenging for some time to come, meaning an air of predictability could overshadow the build-up to the Rugby World Cup in England which is just two years away.
South Africa are widely regarded as the closest challengers to All Black hegemony and had high expectations at their spiritual home, if not snatching away the tournament laurels then at least winning the game.
To take the Rugby Championship they had to score four tries and, at the same time, deny the All Blacks a bonus point.
They made a good go of it, scoring the requisite four tries, twice taking what looked like a game winning lead in front of 62,000 baying fans at Ellis Park... yet still they lost.
While the match was an absorbing contest full of running rugby, pounding tackles, bruising breakdown battles and silky skills, the All Blacks had it sewn up with more than 10 minutes still to play and cantered away by an 11-point margin.
Praise afterwards for the Boks from opposing captain Richie McCaw also proved damning.
"I haven't seen a Springbok team play like that in a long time. I don't know how much running there was, but there was a hell of a lot," he said.
South Africa are now a side who can provide New Zealand with a lively test but are ultimately not good enough to beat them.
"My players gave everything and played well but against the best team in the world you have to execute much better than we did," reflected a rueful coach Heyneke Meyer.
The Springboks have now lost eight of their last nine contests against the All Blacks, whose coach Steve Hansen hailed the latest as their best win since he took over in the wake of the 2011 World Cup win.
"We have had some pretty good performances over the last few years, but this is probably right there up at the top," he said.
That the New Zealanders are patently superior than the rest is reflected in some awe-inspiring numbers.
They have won 38 of 43 internationals since the start of 2010. Their one test loss in their last 24 outings came at the end of a long 2012 campaign when they were patently out on their feet against England at Twickenham. That 38-21 loss is rightfully regarded as an anomaly.
Last year, a draw with Australia denied them a chance to equal their own world record of 17 consecutive test wins but they are back on course after nine successive wins in 2013.
Only fleetingly did the match provide evidence of potential fallibility in their ranks.
New Zealand made a mess of the team sheet and fielded Dane Coles as their substitute hooker when they had written Keven Mealamu down on the list of replacements.
Their team management admitted a "pre-match secretarial error" when referee Nigel Owens stopped the game and summonsed one of the All Black support staff onto the field to explain why a player not down to play had taken to the field as a second half replacement.
South African captain Jean de Villiers made no fuss over an innocent error and agreed to allow Cole to continue in a gesture that allowed them to claim back a little of the moral high ground - even if for a few moments.
(Editing by Martyn Herman)
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)