Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Back in Black
In 1998, 2002, and 2006, the All Blacks won the Tri-Nations Trophy-the Holy Grail of Southern Hemisphere Rugby...only to lose to France in an epic semi-final in the 1999 Rugby World Cup, Australia in the Semi-finals in 2003 and Franc again in the Quarterfinals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Kiwi fans expect only the best from their men in black...yet, there seems to be lingering doubts of bad mojo in this pre-World Cup Year of 2010, with the Rugby World Cup to be played in the All Blacks back yard next year.
The All Blacks have looked really good in their previous matches. They really needed to avoid getting blown out this past Saturday in Soweto against the Springboks.
The Springboks played their best match of this year's Tri-Nations campaign...and yet that still was not enough to keep the All Blacks from scoring two tries in the last 3 minutes from Richie McCaw and Isreal Dagg to eek out a thrilling win to regain the Tri-Nations trophy 29-22-spoiling Springbok captain John Smit's 100th cap for South Africa.
The only bad news for New Zealand is that fly-half Dan Carter is going to miss at least 8 weeks of play with ankle surgery after the gritty win in Soweto.(Did anybody in South Africa ever imagine a rugby match being played in Soweto 20 years ago?)
13 months out from the beginning of Rugby World Cup 2011, the All Blacks once again look like the team to beat. The Springboks played their best match of this Tri-Nations season, and that was not enough to keep Tony Woodcock (who did us props proud by poaching a nice try) and his mates from lifting the Tri-Nations trophy on South African soil.
You have to give the Kiwis credit. From their June International matches to the Tri-Nations matches, Graham Henry's men have looked formidable, to say the least. All Black Full back Mils Muliaina has found the fountain of youth and has been an MVP candidate for the All Blacks. Even wing Joe Rokocoko-who looked out of it last year for New Zealand, has found new life with inspired play this season for the All Blacks.
So, if you are an All Black fan, enjoy the Tri Nations triumph...but a part of you has to be waiting for the other shoe to drop next year in New Zealand. Time will tell.