The All Blacks swagger into town this week and former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer shares some ideas with Simnikiwe Xabanisa as to why they are so good
Johannesburg - World rugby has an unsolvable old riddle called the New Zealand All Blacks.
Not being content with a winning ratio of 77%, the All Blacks have stepped things up a notch since Steve Hansen became their head coach in 2012. They have won 56 of their 61 matches under his control. The losses have numbered three. And there were two draws.
Planning, continuity and structures
“What people don’t understand is that whatever happens off the field translates directly into what happens on it. This is where the All Blacks are ahead of the rest.
“When Steve Hansen goes to the next World Cup (Japan 2019), he will have been with the team for 16 years.
“All the best teams in the world have had one thing in common: continuity.
“They also have quality assistant coaches. You look at a guy like Wayne Smith... he was the All Blacks coach, but he’s now an assistant coach. They’ve got an unbelievable team culture where senior players sweep the dressing room. It’s all about the team and there are no prima donnas.”
“Their Super Rugby players and coaches are contracted by the New Zealand Rugby Union. This means whatever they want to do they get buy-in, because if you don’t, you won’t get a contract the next year.
“When Dan Carter only played a few Super Rugby games last year, people said he was finished. He wasn’t...they were freshening him up and his drop goal was the difference in our [World Cup] semifinal against them last year.”
Great set pieces
“People look at the offloads they make, but you can’t do any of that if you don’t have a good set piece. In the old days, Victor [Matfield] could take them [on] in the line-outs, but they’re probably the best in the world now because of [Brodie] Retallick, [Sam] Whitelock and [Kieran] Read.
“At the World Cup semifinal they took five of our line-out balls, which had never happened before.
“They’ve got a great scrum and their scrum makes a try like TJ Perenara’s against the Boks possible.
“A good scrum means the opposition loosies have to scrum. And if the [number] nine picks up, he can score because they [the loose players] can’t defend. Their kick-offs are to get the ball back. And Read is very good at that.”
The players’ rugby knowledge
“When I coached Aaron Mauger at Leicester, I was flabbergasted when he invariably turned up with a notebook and he had gone through our games three times.
“An example of how well they read the game is the way [in which] they defend kicks. In the old days, our 10s used to kick. To do so, he would need to drop back in the pocket and if he did so, he couldn’t pass to the other players because they were in front of him. They knew that, so they dropped three players back to counter-attack.”
The kicking game
“People say we kick too much, but when we played against the All Blacks, they kicked more. The difference is, with us maybe only one or two players can kick in the backline. All of theirs can, which is why they play two fullbacks in the back three. The way they kick is they move the ball along the backline until one of the defenders commits and the moment he does, they kick into that space.
“Their main strength is their kicking game because they are attacking kicks meant to put you under pressure. They kick on you until you kick badly, then they punish you. They kick the ball to get it back.”
“In the past, we always scored tries against them because they employed the drift defence. The biggest step-up they’ve made is in their defence, where they’ve got the aggressive press. They’re so great at it because of their fitness levels.”
“They are by far the fittest team in the world. If you look at their tight five, they’re not as big, but they can do their basics and still put in 30 tackles because they are superfit.”