I know, I know. What I’m about to say is quite possibly bad juju. (Turn around three times and spit.)
This All Blacks team is turning into something special.
Maybe I’m also late to the party. The record says that since the start of the RWC2011 the All Blacks have played 42, won 38, drawn 2 and lost 2. That’s a 90 percent winning record.
That’s extraordinary enough, but what’s getting me excited was the style of the win in Napier on Saturday night. Particularly the two set-piece tries which demonstrated an astonishing plan to deceive.
The first saw Julian Savea put into a hole about a mile wide as the Bargie defence was invited to drift off towards Nonu.Embed from Getty Images
The second came from a five metre scrum with the All Blacks backs stacked on the short side. Read ran open from the base and put Aaron Smith into another huge hole. Deception worthy of Penn and Teller.Embed from Getty Images
Put that into context. The second- and third-best teams in the world played in Perth later on Saturday night. It was a horrible kick-fest (and even the kicking was wayward) that only came alive in the last 12 minutes when Habana was harshly sin-binned.
The gap between the All Blacks and the rest is as wide as the hole in the Pumas’ defence.
The difference is in the aspiration. Shag & Co are pushing the limits of the game, creating something beautiful in its artistry. Everybody else is still in a crash and bash model.
The difference is in the concentration and discipline. First Read, then McCaw, had their heads attacked: no loss of focus.
Whitelock went early, then Messam just after half-time. The whole front row subbed by the final quarter. No loss of cohesion.
Does that worry me with one year to RWC2015? You bet. All the old tropes about peaking too early will get dusted off.
But let’s just enjoy the moment. (Turn around three times, and spit.)