All Blacks are lulling us into false sense of security

All Blacks are lulling us into false sense of security

Jaco van der Merwe.

Don’t believe the naysayers when the World Cup starts in Japan next month.

The All Blacks being knocked off their perch by Wales for the first time since whenever is probably the worst imaginable thing that could have happened for any other team setting sail for Japan next month with the hope of annexing the Webb Ellis trophy.

The old saying that it is easier to reach the top than stay there will soon enough ring true for Wales, who have reached the No 1 ranking after making steady progress for over a decade under wily New Zealander Warren Gatland.

Understandably the pressure on them will be ten-fold in Japan as they try and better their best ever World Cup performance of reaching the semifinals by clearing two additional hurdles.

And the expectation, not only in Wales, but in most of the United Kingdom, is huge for the first northern hemisphere side in 16 years to be crowned world champions.

What does give Wales an edge is the personal satisfaction Gatland would take from winning a World Cup title. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen won’t be staying on after the World Cup and if Gatland manages to win it, he might be a shoe-in to replace Hansen, a job any New Zealander would die for.

Him taking up the job of head coach at the Chiefs next year already showed the Kiwi rugby bosses that he is definitely committed to his country of birth.

All of this is music to All Black ears.

Let’s face it, if you win back-to-back World Cups and dominate world rugby for as long as they have, you don’t have anything left to prove anymore and complacency can creep in.

They are human after all despite us having had reason to think otherwise for a long time and humans tend to get cushy when things go well.

Had they showed up in Japan miles ahead in the world rankings with their trophy cabinet bursting at the seams as it usually is, and being the defending champs at that, they might have just became complacent at the wrong time and lose to a Scotland in the quarterfinals or an England in the semis.

And they haven’t had it all their way of late. Having suffered two losses to Ireland over the last few years, drawing the series against Gatland’s British and Irish Lions, lost and drawn their last two home games against the Springboks and suffering a record loss at the hands of the Wallabies in Perth, they have showed some cracks we have not been used to seeing from them in a very long time.

And after scraping home against Argentina, drawing with the Boks and going down 47-26 to the Aussies, there were even suggestions that they are on the slide.

And the first to rubbish this ridiculous notion was Bok coach Rassie Erasmus.

He has been in this game long enough to know things work differently in a World Cup year as the Wallabies won the Rugby Championship in 2011 and 2015 only for the Kiwis to claim the World Cup.

And true’s bob, the Kiwis smashed the Wallabies 36-0 a week later in Auckland.

And the craziest thing is that Wales displaced them as world No 1 after they beat England last weekend. The same happened to the Boks after they slid from No 4 to No 5 after winning the Rugby Championship.

It shows the world rankings aren’t always the most accurate, but going to the World Cup as No 2 won’t sit well with them and nothing will please them more than reclaiming top spot with a third consecutive title.

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