- By Kevin McCarthy
It’s quite a testimony to the fast looming legacy phase of Ian Foster’s All Blacks tenure that there’s extra reason to have a gnawing feeling in the stomach ahead of tomorrow’s rugby world semifinal against Argentina.
We surely know by now that there is nothing given for any team at this or any knockout stage.
All four teams know this, and say they are prepared for it. If there is vulnerability in overconfidence, it will lie with New Zealand and South Africa – both of whom faced down imminent exit in two gripping matches against topflight opponents.
England and Argentina are just the sorts of teams you don’t want to play. Neither will try that much and will be tough to break down. They’ll want to keep the game close and see where the cards (literally) fall. Apologies here to England – I thought them poor and doomed to stay in their pool. Well, here they are. Possibly still poor but built to keep trundling on.
Back to Team Fozzie though, and after revealing last weekend what they could do at full noise for 80 minutes, the nervous feeling is that they typically back up the brilliant with the mediocre. This is not a lack of belief from fans but borne out by the cold, hard stats.
The stakes are so much higher now that you’d hope this won’t happen again, but it’s hardly our fault as fans if we have been conditioned to feel this way. A slap on the wrist for the great man Tana Umaga as well – using the slur of band-waggoning to attack the attitude of fans. We all want the All Blacks to succeed, but mindless boosterism of what for the past two years has been a struggling side is not of any use to anyone either.
What will be good on Saturday? Anything over a 10 point margin as we head into the last five minutes. Anything less could be a bit excruciating, let alone fatal.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 18, 2023
What will be good on Sunday? A Boks win. Of course, a part of us all might hope England could derail the world champs. But really, this tournament deserves quite a bit more than England getting anywhere near the William Webb Ellis. Fair play to them if they do, however.
The universe will probably serve up a dream final – 1995 redux, but with better hotel catering.
In the meantime, I know we have three chickens where I live, and I have no intention of counting them.
The Irish continue to make huge strides with their rugby. They’re now learning what it is like to be at or near the very top, and still lose.
Listening to the pained, disconsolate feelings of commentators and fans post-match is like a huge echo chamber of what New Zealand supporters have endured at world cups.
At least we’ve won a few. At some point Ireland will do the same. It just never gets easier even after that. This is the price of being the best.
France has a different track record. Glorious upsets punctuate their world cups. But going out in your home tournament, by the narrowest of margin. Next level pain. If France finally win the Cup next time, it will mean Ireland won’t. Cruel isn’t it.
Just a wee aside on the 37-phase defensive effort of the All Blacks. In the immortal 2013 finish where the All Blacks had to keep the ball alive to win and secure their unbeaten season – as well as not lose to Ireland for the first time – they did the job after what seemed an eternity.
In fact, I rewatched it. Just 12 phases. A veritable walk in the park.
Former Wellington College hooker Dane Coles had this to say as well:
The Lions will probably not want to watch the NPC final this weekend, after crashing out against Hawkes bay. No shield, no consolation title after a very good regular season.
Taranaki probably will do the job at home this weekend.
Yet Hawke’s Bay is bidding for a rare holding of three trophies – the championship being one, and the Lego Ranfurly Shield being the other two.
Go the Naki.