It’s been a rather remarkable year of rugby in our part of the world.
Bledisloe 2 has generated a rush of blood among fans on both sides of the pond, with more apprehension by OZ fans and more of great expectations by the Kiwis.
This is because, as history shows, the All Blacks’ trademark for a comeback, whether after a poor or losing game, or after a lousy first half or putting the finishing touches in the last 20 minutes in the second half, is to not only to score points to win but to strike so much fear by punishing the opponent to lose whatever self-confidence it has to play the game the next time around.
And the Wallabies are in that exact position, not that they wanted to be but because of too many heartaches and tears in the past.
The question is whether the Wallabies had broken that jinx last Sunday’s spectacular draw. We will know this Sunday whether Dave Rennie has mentally toughened the Wallabies for the All Blacks massive onslaught.
Last Sunday, we watched how the underdog Wallabies play, but not so much how the champions play.
But this Sunday, it is different because the outcome of the game is to see what the All Blacks put on the table. They are the undoubted champion and a perennial punisher of the Wallabies.
Here is what to watch for the All Blacks in the second game based on analysis of their previous games with the Wallabies (the All Blacks took a different tack against the Springboks).
Keep a lookout on the three things in the All Blacks’ game: the ball-in-hand running game, the kicking game and the forced breakdowns.
1. First half: The first 15 minutes
They will be testing the Wallabies’ indiscipline in their own half and inside 25 minutes. The Wallabies’ Achilles in the past had always indiscipline in breakdowns and scrums in own 25 and unforced errors in opponent’s 25. So look to see plenty of All Blacks kicking to force Wallabies in their own half to win early free penalty points from breakdowns, especially if the Wallabies try to run the ball from their own half.
2. The next 15 minutes
If points pile up, the All Blacks will revert to their running game all the way to their wingers to force Wallabies to kick to touch from their 25 and launch another attack.
3. The last ten minutes of the first half
The All Blacks will pit their set pieces in their tactical game plan into full play.
Of course, it is not a hard and fast approach as there will be adjustments on the edges to suit the circumstances as the game progresses.
In the second half, they will look to continue to expose the Wallabies’ indiscipline and other weaknesses from the first half.
What Wallabies should keep on doing
Maintain ball discipline and a reliable line-out (otherwise it’s game over) and, this is important, keep on forcing the All Blacks to defend and attack from their 25. All Blacks are known to get rattled when they are asked to defend from their 25 too many times.
Don’t dance around with the All Blacks in the middle of the field, because that is where they are most deadly. Tackle like hell so as to not allow the All Blacks to run with the ball from their half outside their 25.
In the second half, force Aaron Smith to box-kick often and then drive the All Blacks back into their 25.
Other than that, it will be what Rennie has in his bag for the 80 minutes.
Of course it is easier said than done, but that is what it takes to bring down a champion.