Thursday, 8 September 2011

Prediction for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand

Yes, the waiting is over, the hour has come round again, but will it be our hour? Will we finally put to rest 24 years of disappointment?  I am off to join fellow Otago rugby rep, Graeme Spence, in a few hours at the Cricket Club in Colombo to watch Tonga play New Zealand.

Captain Richie McCaw and Coach Graham Henry

I remember the atmosphere in New Zealand during the 1987 Rugby World and I have great memories of travelling with the Scottish team on the inter island ferry between Picton and Wellington, and having quite a few pints of beer with them. Then the euphoria of winning the Rugby World Cup. Ah, that was sweet.

Since then I have written a lot about rugby and one of the articles that I got a lot of feedback on was about what rugby means to a New Zealander?

In July last year I wrote :
It's on the lips of most New Zealanders`. "Will NZ win the 2011 Rugby World Cup ?" To find the answer, I spent last Saturday at Pareora, a small farming community in South Canterbury seeing if I could come up with an accurate prediction.

At Pareora I observed how strong 'grassroots' NZ rugby is and through a constant stream of talented players coming from small communituies like Pareora which has contributed hugely to our current strength at many levels of national rugby. The rules have allowed the All Blacks to play exciting, well constructed and fast running rugby which is our natural game. We've beaten South Africa twice in 3 weeks and Australia beat the Boks on Saturday night which that proves the dour Springbok and English kicking game does not win rugby in 2010.

Rugby is strong at grass roots in rural New Zealand and it was from small communities like this that Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter came. This is in Pareora, a small farming community in South Canterbury, New Zealand. Photo: Bob McKerrow 

The NZ Maoris have beaten Wales, Ireland and England this year and the NZ under 20s recently won the world cup. Never before a year out from the Rugby World Cup have we had this depth.But the depth is from north to south. Southland took the coveted Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury last year and has pumped new life into provincial rugby.

That was over a year ago, and although we have been beaten recently by South Africa and Australia, these are factors which makes coaches and players dig deep, to strive for perfection. This is the full details of this posting.

I am quietly confident New Zealand will win, but it is not going to be easy. England, Australia and France are all in with a chance, and South Africa, Ireland and Samoa lurking round the edges.. Rather than go in to fine detail on my prediction, I would like to quote David Kirk, Captain of the winning rugby world Cup All Black team in 1987.

It seemed so easy in 1987. We went into the tournament with an inexperienced team after a difficult time. We had a squad of 26 players, two hookers were all we could afford, and before the tournament even started we were down to one.

Three of the 15 that would play and win the final had not played a single test match before the tournament started. Six more had played no more than five tests.

It seems incredible now but two-thirds of the players in the only All Blacks team ever to win the Rugby World Cup had played less than six tests each before the tournament started. Our preparation was ordinary. And yet it seemed so easy back then.

It wasn't easy of course but it was rare. A quirk of timing. The old stagers, who had served New Zealand so well since the late 1970s, finally gave way and onto the stage strode some of the best players that the best rugby-playing nation in the world has ever produced.

We may have made it look easy but it wasn't. All we really did was the basics well but we did them so well and for so long that we were irresistible.

The chemistry of 1987 was rare indeed, as we were to learn. In 1991 we hoped the glories of the past would be enough. They weren't. In 1995 we were good enough to win, but we didn't. In 1999 we fell foul of freakish rugby. In 2003 we learned that good, unlike brilliant teams, can't afford to make any mistakes. In 2007 we showed that enough mistakes will stop any team.

For the first time ever in the history of New Zealand rugby the captain and coach of a team that failed at a World Cup are back. If we, the supporters, have been on a long journey, picking ourselves up and going on after every unexpected defeat, cursing the useless buggers for a week and cheering them on again as the years roll by, think what the journey has been like for Richie and Ted. The waiting is over, the hour has come round again, but will it be our hour? Will we finally put to rest 24 years of disappointment?

It seemed so easy in 1987. We went into the tournament with an inexperienced team after a difficult time. We had a squad of 26 players, two hookers were all we could afford, and before the tournament even started we were down to one.

Three of the 15 that would play and win the final had not played a single test match before the tournament started. Six more had played no more than five tests.

It seems incredible now but two-thirds of the players in the only All Blacks team ever to win the Rugby World Cup had played less than six tests each before the tournament started. Our preparation was ordinary. And yet it seemed so easy back then.

It wasn't easy of course but it was rare. A quirk of timing. The old stagers, who had served New Zealand so well since the late 1970s, finally gave way and onto the stage strode some of the best players that the best rugby-playing nation in the world has ever produced.

We may have made it look easy but it wasn't. All we really did was the basics well but we did them so well and for so long that we were irresistible.

The chemistry of 1987 was rare indeed, as we were to learn. In 1991 we hoped the glories of the past would be enough. They weren't. In 1995 we were good enough to win, but we didn't. In 1999 we fell foul of freakish rugby. In 2003 we learned that good, unlike brilliant teams, can't afford to make any mistakes. In 2007 we showed that enough mistakes will stop any team.

For the first time ever in the history of New Zealand rugby the captain and coach of a team that failed at a World Cup are back. If we, the supporters, have been on a long journey, picking ourselves up and going on after every unexpected defeat, cursing the useless buggers for a week and cheering them on again as the years roll by, think what the journey has been like for Richie and Ted.

Three months ago I interviewed Graham Henry on stage at a rugby lunch. I chipped him about his upside-down smile. He replied: ''It's all right for you Kirky, you've got peace."

Richie never says much about it, but it has to be burning away inside of him too. He knows this is it; he has to take his chance.

I think they will. This All Blacks team is talented and balanced. It has depth and tactical nous and, importantly, it is playing at home.

After all the preparation, all that remains now is the tournament and this is the final test for this All Blacks team.

Can they play tournament rugby? Playing well in a tournament is about building and learning. Every match is important as an opportunity to play creative, clinical rugby, honing combinations, feeling powerful and relaxed and building, building. Building towards a final and the game of your lives.

Ad Feedback Most teams that have won the World Cup have had to dig themselves out of a hole. Some time, in some match the world champions-to-be have found themselves on the ropes but they know they are good enough to win.

This may well be the fate of Richie McCaw's men and this time, unlike every All Blacks team since 1987, they have to find a way to dig themselves out of the hole. They have to find a way to win. Calmness under pressure, precision and trusting your team-mates to do their bit so all you have to worry about is doing your bit, are what it will take.

And so, as the curtain comes up on the 2011 Rugby World Cup and we set out to fill the void created by 24 long, lonely years, the best thing we can say to Graham Henry and Richie McCaw is this: "Good luck guys, we hope you don't need it."
Three months ago I interviewed Graham Henry on stage at a rugby lunch. I chipped him about his upside-down smile. He replied: ''It's all right for you Kirky, you've got peace."

Richie never says much about it, but it has to be burning away inside of him too. He knows this is it; he has to take his chance.

I think they will. This All Blacks team is talented and balanced. It has depth and tactical nous and, importantly, it is playing at home.

After all the preparation, all that remains now is the tournament and this is the final test for this All Blacks team.

Can they play tournament rugby? Playing well in a tournament is about building and learning. Every match is important as an opportunity to play creative, clinical rugby, honing combinations, feeling powerful and relaxed and building, building. Building towards a final and the game of your lives.

Ad Feedback Most teams that have won the World Cup have had to dig themselves out of a hole. Some time, in some match the world champions-to-be have found themselves on the ropes but they know they are good enough to win.

This may well be the fate of Richie McCaw's men and this time, unlike every All Blacks team since 1987, they have to find a way to dig themselves out of the hole. They have to find a way to win. Calmness under pressure, precision and trusting your team-mates to do their bit so all you have to worry about is doing your bit, are what it will take.

And so, as the curtain comes up on the 2011 Rugby World Cup and we set out to fill the void created by 24 long, lonely years, the best thing we can say to Graham Henry and Richie McCaw is this: "Good luck guys, we hope you don't need it."

Thanks to Stuff.co.nz for permission to run some extracts from David Kirk's article.

4 comments:

Marja said...

Go all blacks. I met richie once Nice guy

Joe Lowry said...

Bob, I hope you win, relaly I do. But here's another reaosn for you to barack the perfidious Albion: Ben Cohen, 2003 England World Cup-winning wing on BBC:

I think England will get to the semi-finals, and anything can happen from there. They have definitely got the ability. I would love to say England will win it, but I don't think they will. The heart would say England, but the head says I don't think they have got that experience of winning big away games.

I think South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will be the other semi-finalists. I can't see New Zealand winning it though. I think they will choke.

Bob McKerrow said...

Choke is an operative word Joe. SA 1995, it was so close and in the end, it was great for South Africa's new independence. You always have to take your hat off to the French, and they have taken us in the semi's. We will win this time Joe and that is not from any parocialism, or nationalistic stance, is that we have the formula right. and too many players who have lost twice, some three times. Triumph will come through pain, shame, adversity and a hunger to win.

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