James Mortimer 27.Aug.2013Getty Images
Led again by their understated but effective defence, the All Blacks absorbed everything the Wallabies presented, showed that ability again to be ruthless in taking points from the enemy, while playing in a manner that never suggests there is any panic or uncertainty about the grand plan behind every little move.
And like the death of a thousand cuts, the All Blacks are not blowing sides apart, but rather striking with efficiency while pacing around the ring like a prize fighter.
Whether it be a running game or aerial assault, the World Champions appear to be studied to repel anything thrown against them, and areas that might have been regarded as slight Achilles heels in the past now are positions of strength for the All Blacks.
This ability to absorb punishment will be tested however by a physical Springboks team and a gritty Argentine unit, both who will present challengers laced with more power than the Wallabies, which is where they will look to attack the world’s number one ranked team.
Springboks and Pumas sides have learned in the past that trying to take the All Blacks on at their own precision game is fraught with danger.
The All Blacks are a team about themselves, knowing with the right preparation they would be hard to beat, but despite their penchant to allow teams to play against them, they still studiously craft a plan for each area of the game.
Whether it was the subtle shutdown of Will Genia or the deliberate ploy to limit Israel Folau’s possession, the All Blacks tactics aren’t so much a broadsword as much as a scalpel.
While they know the Boks and Pumas will look to target them up front, the All Blacks will back their prize fighting style to absorb all of the heavy hits, backed with a fast game that capitalises on a team’s errors.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has continued the theme of his predecessor Sir Graham Henry in ensuring that each season the team challenges themselves and develops to ensure they never sit still with world rugby chasing them down, and at this stage their approach and experience – with the most Test caps of any nation – means they are most certainly the most saavy and grizzled prize fighting boxer in a crowded field.