CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Sep 18 – The All Blacks’ easy canter to the Rugby Championship crown has triggered concerns in New Zealand about the state of the international game, amid claims their dominance is unhealthy.
“Rugby was the loser,” wrote columnist Chris Rattue in the New Zealand Herald on Sunday after the All Blacks beat South Africa 41-13 in Christchurch to wrap up the title with two rounds of the championship still to be played.
“There is increasing daylight between them and anyone else in world rugby,” said Radio New Zealand’s Jamie Wall, a sentiment rugby writer Gregor Paul echoed in the Herald.
“It becomes increasingly apparent the All Blacks’ greatest enemy is themselves,” Paul wrote.
Fairfax writer Richard Knowler likened the All Blacks superiority to that of “a cruel cat that likes to toy with a bird with a busted wing”.
Despite losing more than 800 caps worth of experience after winning the World Cup last October — including Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, the All Blacks have barely broken a sweat in winning all seven Tests played this year.
In June, they swept the three-Test series against Wales, the Six Nations runners up, and have romped to bonus point wins in all four Rugby Championship matches played so far, racking up 24 tries in the process.
The southern hemisphere championship comprises the four semi-finalists from last year’s World Cup — New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.
While the post World Cup months produced the usual welter of retirements from international rugby, New Zealand have managed to bounce back arguably stronger than ever, while the other three appear to have gone backwards.
“World rugby is in a parlous state,” wrote Rattue.
“The All Blacks beat Argentina by about 30 points in a ‘close’ test, and they have now crushed the hopelessly naive Springboks by a similar margin without even playing well.”
The All Blacks, with away matches against Argentina and South Africa still to come, claimed the quadrangular tournament for the fourth time in five years, with Australia taking the crown last year.
The All Blacks have now gone 15 games unbeaten and Gregor Paul said “that makes it hard not to think of this team as shaping as one of the best in history.
“There’s no point in pretending, the All Blacks are some way the best side in the world and it will take a supreme effort to beat them.”
Eric Watson, owner of the Warriors side in the rival rugby league code, said the All Blacks’ dominance of world rugby union was not “real sport” and the Australia-based National Rugby League was more “exciting”.
But while the outcome of All Blacks matches is at present a foregone conclusion, Knowler noted that it’s what their supporters appear to want.
“The Springboks were in the fight at 15-10 early in the second half, when the crowd, no doubt to the disgust of the purists, signalled their frustration by executing a Mexican wave,” he wrote.
“That seemed to set the All Blacks off. Perhaps they don’t like the human waves, either”, as the response was four unanswered tries.