Jake White
2 minute read
30 Nov 2013
10:30 am

Who can stop rugby’s Big Two?

Jake White

So much has been said about the dominance of the All Blacks this year, that there is really very little left.

FILE PICTURE: Jack White. Picture: Steve Haag / Gallo Images.

Their 100% winning record and the gulf they have established between themselves and the rest of the rugby world really says it all.

The same can be said of the Springboks one tier down from New Zealand. Firmly entrenched as the second-best side on the planet,

Heyneke Meyer’s side have also established a large gap between themselves and the rest of the challengers.

It has never ceased to surprise me that, in an era of full-time professional players, these startling differences in performance have been allowed to exist.

On the face of it, both the All Blacks and the Boks have put themselves in a good space for the 2015 World Cup.

Both sides won all their Tests in the northern hemisphere tours, and got a good feel of the conditions they will be up against at the showpiece in England. To all intents and purposes, it looks like a straight fight between the two top sides in the game.

But in reality, it’s far more complex than that. There is no doubt in my mind that somewhere down the line a northern hemisphere side will come through and lift the William Webb Ellis trophy again.

The 2015 host nation have been in every World Cup since 1987. They lost 12-6 to Australia in the 1991 final, but made good in 2003 when a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in extra time gave Martin Johnson’s side a 20-17 victory over the Wallabies and were losing finalists against the Boks four years later.

France might have had a disastrous Six Nations campaign last time out, but like England, they have a near-flawless World Cup pedigree, reaching three finals without winning one and never missing out on reaching the knockout stages.

They also have the distinction of having recorded a famous 27-22 victory over the All Blacks at the old Carisbrook ground in Dunedin, a venue where New Zealand have proved almost unbeatable, back in 2009.

But, though the Boks and All Blacks have won two World Cups apiece, they do not own sole rights, and Australia, even if they are at a relatively low point right now, can also count a brace of victories.

The one factor that has to be taken into account when the Boks or All Blacks are opponents is that more than any other sides, these are the ones everyone wants to beat.

Look at how close Ireland came last Sunday. The Irish were just one play away from scoring their first win over New Zealand.

The World Cup is now just 18 months away and for the Boks and All Blacks the challenge will be to build on a good year and get their plans right for 2015.

Jake White is South Africa’s World Cup-winning coach of 2007 and director of coaching at the Sharks.