The New Zealand rugby team is nothing short of a sporting phenomenon. In a history spanning over 125 years, the All Blacks have won more than ¾ of all the international matches they have played. That gives them a win ratio which eclipses Brazil in football, Australia in cricket and any other top team in any other major sport you could care to mention.
What then has allowed New Zealand rugby to be so successful for so long? We’ve identified four crucial elements, which when combined have helped to create the all-conquering All Blacks that sports fans know and love.
Starting Them Young – Grassroots NZ Rugby
Whereas in the UK, a youngster might go through their entire childhood without ever having any hands-on experience of rugby, in New Zealand the game is a huge part of day-to-day life. Almost every small town has its own rugby team, the sport enjoys primacy of coverage on sports news bulletins and most importantly, rugby is massive in New Zealand schools.
Rugby is the second most participated in sport at grassroots level in New Zealand – recently falling behind football – and school’s rugby in the country is taken very seriously. Schools try to cover everything young players need, including nutrition and psychological aspects of the game, as well as the essential skills. That, as a result, helps to develop a strong overall New Zealand rugby ethos which is an element that contributes to the success of the All Blacks.
Unique NZ Rugby Ethos & Outlook
At an early age, New Zealand rugby coaches and teachers start to help pass on the country’s unique rugby ethos to young players. It is an ethos which stresses the importance of sportsmanship, respect for the game and respect for opponents. Perhaps above all else, however, it also teaches that the team is king and that individual performances and accolades are very much subordinate.
In a similar way, New Zealand rugby players are never left in any doubt that the national team is of primary importance. The All Blacks will only select players who play their domestic rugby in New Zealand to avoid any club vs country arguments, and everything in a player’s development is geared towards making them ready to become an All Black.
Jerome Kaino, a hugely successful back row for the New Zealand rugby team, explained an important element of that development process in an interview with news network CNN this year:
‘From a school to semi-professional, and definitely in Super Rugby up to the All Blacks, there’s a huge emphasis on how players react and how they execute their skills under pressure.’
That emphasis on performance under pressure, ensures that New Zealand rugby players are those most likely to stand up taller when the chips are down. That’s borne out, too, in the results which the All Blacks produce on the pitch. Since 2004, the All Blacks have trailed at half-time in 42 internationals but have come back to win an impressive 28 of those games.
Along with that ethos and outlook which means their players are less likely to shrink when pressure is applied, the way in which the All Blacks play the game has also helped them to achieve their astounding levels of success.
Playing Rugby the All Blacks Way
As well as being the most consistently successful rugby team in the world, the All Blacks also play the game differently to any other national side. World Cup winner Beauden Barrett explained what typifies New Zealand rugby in a 2017 interview with the Financial Times:
‘The way we play rugby, it is a more expansive game than many other teams…It makes it easier to go out and score quick tries if needed.’
Scoring tries is indeed one thing, amongst many, which the All Blacks do excel at. Across all of the matches played by the All Blacks in 2016, they averaged just under six tries per game. That compares to an average of below five tries per game for all of the top northern hemisphere sides in the same year’s Six Nations tournament. The expansive style of play mentioned by Barrett, then, allows New Zealand to put games beyond the reach of even the best of their opponents.
All Blacks Identity & Aura
Rugby can accurately be described as New Zealand’s national sport but it is also so much more than that. It is, for many Kiwis, a part of their national identity. That is never better demonstrated than by the passion and emotion generated when an All Blacks team perform the haka ahead of a test match. Barrett talked about this in his interview, too, and explained that:
‘From the very first game I watched the All Blacks and saw the haka, I knew straight away that was part of who I am.’
The New Zealand rugby team, then, are more than just a band of brothers on the field, they are also very tangibly the representatives of their whole nation. That gives the side an added spirit and togetherness which is hard for any opposing side to match, let alone overcome.
That spirit, together with the team’s astonishing history of success, helps to produce a kind of aura around the team. The All Blacks exude a feeling of invincibility and strength which can see some opponents essentially beaten before they even set foot on the field.
If you want to witness the sporting phenomenon that is the All Blacks on the rugby field at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 10 November, Keith Prowse are sure to have a rugby hospitality package to suit you. We pride ourselves on our varied and high-quality rugby hospitality options, and can provide a package which is sure to make your day extra special.