One did not take on the All Blacks teams of Richie McCaw or Kieran Read without gloves.
They were fast, fit, talented and ruthless on a rugby field. But after Ian Foster’s team lost two games in a row – against the Springboks and the Roosters – many rugby fans believe that this Kiwi group walks around with feet of clay.
Yet Justin Marshall believes you can never write off the All Blacks.
“New Zealand is good enough to hold the Webb Ellis trophy,” the former scrum-half continued The Platform said.
“The team has not yet lost their winning aura; I believe in the players’ skills and the All Blacks brand. We can still win important matches and World Cups.”
But the two losses hurt.
South Africa first achieved a record victory (35–7) against its rugby arch-enemy at Twickenham, while France handed out a beating in Paris. The 27–13 defeat at the Stade de France was the first time ever that the New Zealanders lost in the group stage of a World Cup tournament.
Conrad Breytenbach believes that the blame for the France defeat can be laid in front of a few doors; among other things, the Boks’ boss performance in London.
“The All Blacks may have suffered from a bit of Twickenham bomb shock with the opening game, while there are also a lot of emotions involved when you play against a strong team from the host country in the first game of the tournament. The French can disrupt you badly on a rugby field,” said the former Blue Bull scrumhalf.
He added that the team may still struggle to adapt to the European rugby conditions.
“The fact that they don’t play in European tournaments – such as South Africa – can also have an influence. Ball possession at scrums is very important there, while they still want to run around and throw the ball around left and right; something that is not 100% possible for them at this stage.”
Just like Marshall, he also believes that the All Blacks will quickly get back on the winning track.
Then it is often written in the media that Foster is a poor coach, that Sam Cane is not an inspiring captain, the All Blacks cannot hold a candle to the Boks’ physical play, they are very vulnerable in the lines without Brodie Retallick and that their front rows are not strong enough. Their discipline may be lacking in important matches and they implode when put under pressure.
Olivier Magne, a former French rugby player, said that Foster and Sam Cane are at the helm of the worst All Blacks group yet.
Marshall does not necessarily agree with his analysis.
“New Zealand continues to radiate rugby success. This team still possesses the skills that made the All Blacks such formidable opponents.”
Still, he admits that things are not entirely rosy.
“Rugby legends like George Gregan, Jean de Villiers and John Smit wanted to know from me what was wrong with the All Blacks. If they ask such questions, then surely everything must not be quite right. However, I believe in the team and know what they are capable of, even if the rest of the world is more skeptical.”