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Aisle be Back: All Blacks v South Africa 2.0

Can the All Blacks fly high this Sunday morning when they take on South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, kick-off 3.05am? PHOTO: Google.

  • By Kevin McCarthy

This week, a big section of hillside not far from our house came sliding down. It had always looked a very maturely forested bit of cliff. Fifty years ago or more, they’d built a string of houses at the top, but now one looks quite forlorn, perched a bit close to the precipice.

Just goes to show how you can misjudge what lies underneath. I know the All Blacks have had their dips, some almost as bad as the current one, but its hard to fathom how things have come undone quite so rapidly.

Anyone who has read this blog for while may recall after the 2019 world cup exit that I thought it was a watershed, that the whole New Zealand rugby structure would learn from and adapt. I thought it was seismic. Well, I sure got that wrong.

Laying aside who is coach for now, the New Zealand game seemed to brush over the clear signs that the dynasty was if not dead, then decaying. Other nations have learned since then – we seemed to have learned very little. And that was staggering, because I did think that was our strength – to bounce back.

Fast forward to 2022, and this current team is now effectively deconstructing. It looked a much better side in 2021 – and it wasn’t that flash that year. Now it is a machine for taking international players, and destroying their mojo.

None of which, surely, is the intent of anyone trying so hard within the current structure. Ian Foster is clearly a decent bloke, who sincerely believes his side is on the cusp of coming out of its funk.

It’s just that the rest of the country – and I challenge you to find any supporters, outside some ex coaches – has moved on. They don’t believe the lines, their heads just about explode when they hear the All Blacks just delivered their best performance of the year, or that something special is brewing.  It’s really insulting to fans – who know when they are being marketed to.

The masterplan is always tomorrow, always about to arrive. But does anyone know what this strategy is. I doubt we do. I doubt we ever will.

I understand that people are sometimes overreaching, and playing the person and not the ball – whether it be coach or players. I do hope the players are not going around with a world view that New Zealand is against them or blaming them. Quite the opposite.

I understand why someone like John Hart and other coaches will feel the criticism of Foster goes too far, gets too nasty.  It is possible to see Foster, and feel sorry for some of the rubbish he has to bear trying to do the toughest job in New Zealand sport.

But surely that sympathy can’t extend to the cold, harsh, statistics of his tenure. It is dreadful, and barring a miracle this weekend, will get worse.  Is this what All Black rugby will accept? Would Ian Foster, if he was not coach, accept that.  Because if it does, then it really is the beginning of the end.

To restate the obvious, coaches are ultimately judged on their results. They know that. They’ve always known that.  All Black coaches have that cross to bear worse than any other nation.  Ian Foster’s had a fair crack at this job, and he isn’t the victim of a huge hit job or a tidal wave of unreasoned or ill-informed media and fan commentary.

In a world of accountability – and yes, he couldn’t possibly be accountable for everything – then in all likelihood, it stops at 4.30am, this Sunday, at Ellis Park.


What could be his last All Black team is quite Fosterian. A 20-cap front row and Richie Mo’unga at first five, and another spin of the wheel on Black No.6.

Hard to not think that its way past changing the personnel and hoping for something. If the All Blacks achieve one of the great victories on Sunday, it won’t be personnel – but plan.

Will that radically change? I am not holding my breath.


The Lions got off to a predictable Jekyll and Hyde victorious start to their NPC campaign on Sunday.

Having let themselves blow a halftime lead, and trailing badly at one point, they then came back with a lovely clincher try. 37 to 35.

So so Wellington. Certainly you will never be bored, nor complacent.

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