Super Rugby 2017

Week Ten

A Thought For The Week:

Over in the United Kingdom they are still talking about the upcoming Lions’ tour.

This week it is all about analyzing how and why the All Blacks lose games!

That seems a little strange. Instead of analyzing how the All Blacks play and figuring out how to exploit perceived weaknesses and counter obvious strengths, the United Kingdom’s rugby boffins are trying to figure out how the All Blacks lose games!

I can give them a little guidance: When the All Blacks lose, which is not very often, they do so when an opponent scores more points than they do.

I doubt I have ever made a more obvious statement, after all that is how all teams win rugby matches.

But the reality is a little different with the All Blacks.

You see, they build their entire game plan and rugby ethos on scoring lots and lots of points. Teams that play them invariably focus on defence. How do you stop the All Blacks from scoring so many points? If you can stop them, then the tacticians start suggesting that you have a chance of outscoring them.

I would suggest that the opposite is true. Do not focus on stopping the All Blacks, rather focus on how you can score more points than they do! They do not like defending, they want to run at you and make you defend and defend, until your wall cracks and they can pour through to score. It is the All Black way.

They also know how to grind out a win by doing the hard yards for the first 60 minutes and then taking the game away from the opposition in the last twenty. This is the All Black way.

If you want to beat the All Blacks, you simply have to outscore them, period. And it will almost invariably be a high scoring game.

The last time New Zealand lost a Test, it was a game where 69 points were scored, 40 of them by Ireland.

When the All Blacks win, they score an average of 36 points in a game. Their opponents average 16. A twenty-point spread in a Test match is pretty wide.

When they lose, the opponents score an average of 28 points, while the All Blacks score 21. That is a very narrow seven-point spread!

Yes, the opponents have prevented the All Blacks from scoring too many points, but it has not necessarily been as a result of a massive defensive effort. It has often been on the back of constant attack, forcing the All Blacks to play rugby in their own half of the field. What is evident is that in their losing games, the All Blacks have been forced to defend, and that is anathema to them. They do not like playing defensive rugby.

In the period 2000 to 2016, the team that has had the most success in playing the All Blacks at their own game has been South Africa. New Zealand have won 28 of their games, with South Africa winning 19.

The All Blacks winning margin against the Boks averages a seven-point spread. The average score in these 16 years had been 30 – 23.

When South Africa have won, they have stretched the All Blacks by running at them, and the average score has been 30 – 15 to South Africa.

There is a lesson in there for the Lions. You cannot beat the All Blacks by simply trying to strangle them, you have to run at them and score points.

When I look at the Lions’ squad I do not see too many great runners… they seem to have left them all at home!