Sixteen wins and counting for the All Blacks
New Zealand All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville
Without tempting fate, the All Blacks look set to equal their 1965-169 Test match record of 17 consecutive wins.
We can’t forget they have stumbled at a similar hurdle before, losing the 2010 Bledisloe in Hong Kong and to the Springboks in 2006 at Rustenburg, but their momentum this time around seems unstoppable, and an injury riddled Australian squad will have to come up with something special to stop this All Black juggernaut.
Casting our eye back to Hong Kong, on that day the Wallabies not only ended a 10 game losing streak to the All Blacks, but ended their bitter rivals’ 15 match unbeaten run.
The Wallabies have just six survivors from their exploits that day this weekend, with green and gold fans hoping Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Benn Robinson, James Slipper, and Nathan Sharpe can inspire a similar performance at Suncorp Stadium.
But without invoking the commentator’s curse, let’s have a look at how this milestone compares with the other two teams that have also achieved 17 consecutive test match wins; the All Blacks from 1965-69, and the Springboks from 1997-98.
It took 29 years for another team, the Springboks, to equal this winning streak set by the All Blacks between 1965-1969, and while the game has changed considerably, it is still a measure of just how dominate New Zealand rugby was during this period.
Prior to 1969, the longest record of consecutive test match wins was held by Wales, 11 victories between 1907 and 1910. It took 58 years to equal the Welsh, and 59 years to set the new milestone of success – 17 consecutive Test match victories.
The Springboks reached the magic number 17 in less time than the 1969 All Blacks team simply because the amount of Test match rugby played in a calendar year is increasing.
The 1998 Springboks played 12 tests that year, with their run of 17 wins ended by England in their final match of the year. The 2012 All Blacks will have played 14 tests by December first this calendar year.
While it is difficult to compare teams from different playing eras, we can break down the way in which these teams have built their dynasties, and analyse their similarities and differences.
The All Blacks 1965-69 winning streak saw the team score 56 tries, and concede 16, with 10 of their 17 wins by 11 points or more. They faced seven different teams during this period, including a four Test series clean sweep against the British and Irish Lions at home.
Their performances outside of New Zealand were equally consistent, scoring an average of 3.6 tries per game away from home, and conceding just five tries in total in their six away Tests, including holding their opposition tryless on two occasions.
Remember they also played mid-week games during these overseas tours, and their club opposition was just as keen to inflict pain as their Test counterparts. Factor in travel time and the inferior management of their recovery and injuries, the players did remarkably well to perform at such a high level for as they did.
The 1965-69 All Blacks proved a strong first half team, leading their opposition at halftime in 12 of their 17 tests. Injuries didn’t seem to disrupt their flow, using four captains during this streak. Brian Lochore led the All Blacks to 14 of their 17 wins, with Wilson Whineray, Chris Laidlaw and Kel Tremain also assuming the captaincy during this period.
In comparison, the current All Blacks have scored 73 tries in their 16 match run, conceding just 16. 14 of their 16 wins since the start of the Rugby World Cup have been by 10 points or more, with only Australia and France getting close (eight points and one point margins respectively).
However the current crop has enjoyed the benefits of a home advantage, with just three of their victories in the streak coming outside of New Zealand. The fortress-like rugby venues in New Zealand have definitely helped their cause, but like South Africa in 1998, they will have to win away from home to equal the record.
The All Blacks have played eight different teams in their run, and the Rugby World Cup provided them with opposition they would not ordinarily play against outside of a tournament like this.
Canada, Japan, and Tonga bore the brunt of a rampaging All Black team, scoring a combined 203 points and 31 tries against these tier-two nations. However factor in the pressure and intensity of World Cup quarter, semi and final matches and this goes some way to evening out the playing field across their run of 16 consecutive victories.
Richie McCaw has been at the helm of this team in 15 of their 16 wins, with Keven Mealamu deputising against the Japan in their World Cup pool fixture.
They have also been the dominant team in the first half, going into the break ahead in 14 of their 16 wins. Only Ireland and South Africa have led at halftime against the All Blacks since the start of their winning streak.
This has been an incredibility impressive All Blacks outfit; the transition in coaching staff from Sir Graham Henry to Steve Hansen has been seamless and, with 14 players from the their 33 man squad used in the World Cup not featuring in 2012, their overall performances have continued to be fitting of a World Champion team.
With end of season Tests against Scotland, Italy, Wales, and England, we could very well see this squad finish the year unbeaten, and with 21 consecutive wins. The All Blacks have not enjoyed a calendar year winning 100% of their matches played since 1989 (seven Tests with seven wins). It is also worth mentioning that in 1997 they won 12 of their 13 tests, with one draw.
It is not surprising that this milestone of 21 consecutive wins is likely to be achieved, given the dominance New Zealand rugby has enjoyed over the past couple of years, but the record of 17 consecutive wins by the Springboks between 1997-98 must be considered as one of the great turnarounds in world sport.
After their exclusion from Test match rugby during the apartheid era, their Rugby World Cup victory in 1995 ranked as one of the most remarkable comebacks of all time. It appeared the Springboks would dominate world rugby for the next decade.
However between lifting the William Webb Ellis Trophy at Ellis Park, and the beginning of their winning streak against the Wallabies in Pretoria, the Springboks won just 13 of their 23 Test matches played (56.5%), hardly the winning percentage of a World Champion team.
During this period they lost a Test match series at home to the All Blacks for the first time in their history, lost the 1997 British and Irish Lions series, and suffered their biggest losing margin (at the time) to the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Towering lock Gary Teichmann was appointed Springbok captain at the start of this poor run of form, given the responsibility after just six caps for his country. In taking over from Springbok legend Francois Pienaar he endured a tough initiation, however the records books show that under his captaincy the Springboks won 26 of their 36 tests, including their first Tri-Nations title in 1998, and their second biggest winning margin over the Wallabies (39 points) in their history.
He captained every one of their 17 consecutive test wins, with 13 of those victories with a winning margin of 10 points or more.
Even more impressive is that 10 of their 17 victories were away from home, against the likes of Five Nations and Grand Slam Champions France, and Tri-Nations holders New Zealand in their own backyards.
The Springboks scored a staggering 89 tries in their 17 test unbeaten run, conceding 21, with Italy, Australia and France the only countries to score three tries in matches against them.
Their loss to England at Twickenham on the 5th of December 1998 not only ended their 17 match unbeaten run, but also halted their consecutive winning record away from home at 10 games, one shy of the world record at that time held by Argentina (11 games between 1936 and 1964).
In comparing all three winning streaks, the Springboks numbers certainly are the most impressive, with the amount of tries scored, and away wins, however I feel if the current crop of All Blacks equal or surpass the record, it will probably be the most impressive, not only because there is a World Cup Trophy in the mix, but because this is a team which has set new records for consistency in 2012.
Their 11th Super Rugby Title (and fifth clean sweep), their 10th consecutive season as Bledisloe Cup holders, and a 21 match unbeaten run against the Irish.
In 1998, the Springbok team were playing in a 12 game Super Rugby tournament, a four match Tri-Nations campaign, and they were afforded more time off between competitions and tours.
This year has been a highly congested year of rugby, and many of these players have already played in an 18 game Super Rugby campaign, three Test June International series, and a six match Rugby Championship tournament.
If the All Blacks can fulfil their potential and win a world record 21 consecutive Test matches, I believe this will be the summit of achievement that all future rugby playing nations will strive to equal.
Looking to join The Roar team? We're searching for an experienced Group Sales Manager to lead our team in Sydney. Yes, this does mean you get to work with the site all day long! If you're a digital media sales star, we want to hear from you. Apply now.
Passionate about your union? Then sign up to The Roar's brand new daily union email, delivering Roaring articles directly to you day-in, day-out. You'll love it!
Click here to join now!