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MAILBOX: ABs winners or chokers?

Wed, 06 Jun 2007 00:00
With former All Black selector Peter Thorburn claiming that no team can halt New Zealand's march to World Cup glory - while even clearing the All Blacks' reputation as 'chokers' in the process - we asked if you agreed with the current USA Eagles coach's comments... There is no doubt that the depth and talent of the AB's over the past couple of years is second to none. On paper, selector Peter Thorburn couldn't be wrong in saying that there does not appear to be a team "on paper" who can challenge New Zealand. But how many times has the world said that before? Do they seem better prepared than previous World Cups? Indeed they do, but it is a heavy mantle they wear as World Cup Chokers. It is a self propagating mantle that puts more and more pressure on the team the later the day in the World Cup schedule. If that pressure has bearing on the team in a quarter or semi-final, all that is needed is one loss. Are the AB's above losing? Not a chance... and history has proven that in the big arena, our little cousins from across the Tasman, are dwarfed by their public imposed mantle as World Cup Chokers. I wish them all the best. - Lee Castle (Two-eyed objective Australian) "Talk of Kiwi invincibility is nothing new with New Zealand backed equally heavily to win the 1999 and 2003 World Cups" Huge upsets? What rubbish! RWC 1999 In 1998, NZ lost 5 tests in a row and were beaten heavily by the Wallabies 28-7 prior to the RWC 1999. NZ also got beaten big time by England in set pieces in 1999 pool play, winning the match with great turnover tries. France won the Grand Slam in 1997-1998 and had beaten NZ in 3 out of the previous 5 matches! No semi-final is an upset, unless it was #1 losing to #20! RWC 2003 The Wallabies had held the Bledisloe Cup for five long seasons before the 2003 Tri Nations. In the 2003 Auckland Bledisloe Cup decider, NZ only won by 4 points! NZ had a 2-3 win ratio at Stadium Australia before RWC 2003, and has since lost another two there and only one win! How can a semi-final between #1 seed and #4 seed be a huge upset? RWC 2007 France vs Springboks (semi) All Blacks vs England (semi) - Hans Beyer-Rieger Currently, the Boks have better players than the All Blacks. The problem is the All Blacks have always played very well as a coherent team - something the Boks has not always got right. But with the likes of Guthro Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar and the likes - if the Boks get to play to their true potential, the All Blacks won't stop them. That's not being biased but realistic. - Abraham Groenewald Pretty funny stuff from Thorburn. To quote the article: "The choking aspect is absolute rubbish." and " Some of these guys cracked under pressure in the semi-finals" Is not cracking under pressure choking? Any one of a number of teams can retrospectively claim that selection choices were responsible for failure, but for the men on the field it is still choking. -David Gold Peter Thorburn is right in at least one respect: choking played no part in previous unsuccessful Cup efforts. Each time they were beaten fair 'n square by a better team. In summary: 1991: Australia had been the better team in all 3 matches of that year (and the last of the previous year). They had better forwards and backs - one of the greatest Wallaby teams. NZ should not have been favourites; 1995: So very, very close - a drop goal in injury time cannot be regarded as decisive. SA worthy winners. 1999: NZ forwards were weak, weak, weak. They had been for some time - the current trend was recycle the ball which doesn't suit the NZ (rucking) game. The French forwards just breezed up the field and NZ had nothing to offer. Australia were the better team and would have won a hypothetical final, anyway: they had inflicted NZ's worst ever defeat the match before the World Cup and tipped over their scrum! NZ should not have been favourites. 2003: See above - no improvement in the forwards. England would have won a hypothetical final - NZ's forwards were held by Australia, with only the injury to Ben Darwin holding up a final tilt for glory. NZ should not have been favourites: is England's win really regarded as an upset? So should NZ be favourites this time? Wait till it starts - they have to play SA twice prior and anything could happen... - Stephen Hodge I think New Zealand have the best and most consistent team in rugby. I love it when people say that they are certain to win the win the World Cup. I hope the All Blacks themselves are convinced that the Cup is theirs already. It makes it all the more entertaining when some write off team plays out of their skins and beats the All Blacks in the Semi Finals. - Mr Fox (San Francisco) Yes! This seems to happen every 4 years but then another team walks away with the cup. I think it is a conspiracy by the media to continually pump up the All Blacks chances and then hope that they lose just to say they are chokers. Well in fact the All Blacks have been in contention (at least making semi-finals) in every World Cup contested unlike some other teams that are never labeled as chokers. Lets take a look at the All Blacks losses in World Cups: 1987- no losses 1991- lost semi final to Australia eventual winners 1995 - lost final in extra time to Sth Africa in Sth Africa 1999 - lost semi final to France at Twickers; 3rd place playoff no one cares (but lost) 2003 - lost semi final to Australia in Australia Not a bad record when considering the records of all the other teams. I'm not sure if any of them have at least made the semi final in every World Cup! This time the All Blacks will go all the way, there is simply no other team with the depth, skill and drive necessary to win. Plus they have the best coaching staff in the world. Good luck to all the other teams, they will need it! - Gary Mclean YES. Saying they are chokers is only saying New Zealand were the best team in both the last tournaments. This squad is vastly superior to both those squads. A well rounded unit with no weaknesses and a variety of strengths that can win playing a number of different styles of rugby (reminiscent of 1987). - Garth Jones What Thorburn conveniently overlooks is that the Springboks have the game to beat the All Blacks, as they have shown in actually dominating them the last few years. The Boks have seriously threatened to beat the All Blacks in NZ of late, whilst convincingly beating them in SA. The simple reason is that, whilst I agree with Thorburn that no other team can attack like the All Blacks, the Boks don't base their game on attack, but rather defence and counter attack, which they use with great effect against NZ. They are the only team who can make NZ "go backwards" and create the pressure which makes NZ look mortal after all. Remember, Mr Thorburn, pride comes before a fall... - Timothy Baker The AB's always manage to peak before they should, they also seem to produce killer teams when everyone else is in a state of flux or transition. I dont think that the withdrawal of the AB players from the Super 14 series has done their cause any favours. The new super AB's failed to make an impact on the SA sides. They have also not hit the ground running and massacred the French as expected.One would have thought that the super AB's would have swept all before them... - Sebastian Prinsloo Everyone seems to agree not so much choked, but beaten by better teams on the day. Leading up to the prior three RWC tournaments we in NZ had put up with the groundhog day that a win to Australia in the last minutes had become. Time and time again. And so this in 2007 Australia can barely beat Wales 'C'. Without Stephen Larkam they are in trouble. Will he last? When did England last play a great game of rugby? But the French and Sth Africa? Mmmm... Maybe after the TriNations we'll know abit more about South Africa. That still leaves the French. Isn't this what's so great about a world cup? -Phil Williscroft
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