Why are the All Blacks so good? CNN finds out

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    28 Jul 2018     Getty Images

Noting that since the Rugby World Cup win in 2011 New Zealand had achieved an 89 percent win record, it still batted at 87.2 percent if going back to 2004 and times of less success.


The news channel explored further into the New Zealand rugby psyche with former All Black Jerome Kaino and departing Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd.

Kaino said the rugby talent was so impressive because of the style of game the All Blacks played, and which changed from year to year as a result of coaches continually lifting standards.

"I think it's the evolution of how you play as a team and what's expected from forwards these days. That's developed through the years. A lock forward no longer just carries the ball and cleans rucks. There are other things, like the expectation to catch-pass. Expectations keep lifting from year to year.

"I remember a time when locks didn't have to work on their acceleration, their footwork, their evasion skills or their catch-pass. Front rowers just did their jobs, locks did their job, the forwards tackled all day and tried to steal the ball.

"But now you've got periods in the game where tight forwards are expected to do things like midfielders. The skill-set within players these days has definitely grown," he said.
And with emerging players being faster and stronger it was up to the incumbents to keep up or they would be left behind.

An important part of the process was also in the way coaches developed their teams.

"There's always an element of thinking outside the box, having that point of difference with how players think and react and execute under pressure," Kaino said.

Boyd said rugby athletes were treated like prime commodities in New Zealand.

"Basically all the best athletes are there to choose from. Ideologically, we've made things very player-centric with our processes, which is at times holistic and long-term," he said.

There was also an ability to keep an eye on the greater cause, the All Blacks.

"We Super Rugby coaches compete like hell throughout the season but then we will have a conference together. You're not giving away juicy on-field stuff, but over four or five days we'll be discussing leadership or training techniques and systems," he said.
Former All Black Jason O'Halloran, now an assistant coach with Glasgow Warriors said sports psychology had been a big part of the New Zealand approach. It was now an area of growth in Scottish rugby but they were still only where New Zealand was 20 years ago.

And former coach Sir Graham Henry had said the use of psychology after the 2007 World Cup debacle when New Zealand exited in the quarterfinals was important.

"When you are under pressure your brain goes a different state and you end up running around like a headless chicken. All the players [now] have individual clues to stay in the now on the field.

"If they feel themselves slipping they click on with that individual mental trigger to make them stay in the now. They practice that all the time," he said.

Kaino explained the influence that All Blacks assistant manager and sports psychologist Gilbert Enoka had in his area of expertise.

"He likes to see how people think, what works for individuals and you discuss with them a certain process so that if you do find yourself caving under pressure, how do you bound back into the positive stage of mind quicker?" he said.

Boyd said another factor was the cross-pollination of sports in New Zealand. Because of their upbringing in the New Zealand environment, players tended to be good at a number of sports.

And always at the end there was the notion of the team comes first.