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July 9, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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All Black and Blue

The cognitive dissonance rising like steam off this year’s All Blacks is almost aneurism inducing. Indeed, few could argue that this year – the year of years – sees Graham Henry and his cartel of wise ruby sages wielding a slick, strong, well-oiled squad that by rights should be dismantling their opposition at will. Save the second test against a slap-dash French outfit, the favourites for this year’s world cup have yet to dismantle anything, producing a flimsy performance against a brave Canadian side, and a torrid come-from-behind win against the Springboks in Durban. McCaw’s men have yet to click, and for the discerning rugby fan who places value in all international fixtures (not just the ones set to take place in France in a few weeks time), it’s a little upsetting.

Granted, things haven’t been going as smoothly as the All Blacks would’ve liked. They’re dabbling with their sixth and seventh-choice locks, one of whom is a converted loose-forward; our centres range from “decent” to “should probably never be seen in a number 13 jersey again” (re: Luke McAllister); and perhaps worst of all, our beloved first-five, one Daniel William Carter, has seemingly abandoned his prerogative of commanding a game by way of scintillating bursts of pace and strength, the likes of which had some media outlets crowning him “Our Best 10 Ever”, in favour of a set of performances more akin to a Simon Mannix highlights DVD.

It’s all very bothersome, and the recent loss to a hungry Wallabies side in Melbourne only compounds our anxieties and sows the seeds of doubt. It wasn’t so much the fact the All Blacks lost, it was the manner in which they lost; a series of uncharacteristic blunders by key players, coupled an inexcusable number of unforced errors (and maybe just a smidgeon of fatigue) lead to one of the most bumbling rugby-recitals in the past two years. It was difficult to watch a side brimming with talent and panache produce something so decidedly awful, and dare I say it, Englandesque.

Not to worry, though. The panic button does, however, remain dusty and untouched – and with good reason. This current crop of All Blacks has yet to fall so far as to embrace mediocrity as a standby. A loss, the likes of which we witnessed in Melbourne, has the uncanny knack of acting like gravity, pulling the All Blacks back to Earth.

Perhaps they’ve been resting on their laurels? Perhaps their eyes are already peeking over the Tri Nations and north to France? It really doesn’t matter.

This weekend’s match against a strangely lacking Springbok outfit in Christchurch should, one would hope, lay siege to the idea that the team in black has lost its way. One loss does not define a season. Well, not until October at least.

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