All Blacks v South Africa: A 100-year rivalry

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Last year's Covid-19 disruptions ensured the centenary in years would be matched by the statistical phenomenon of their 100th Test being played in the unlikely celebration venue of Townsville on Saturday.

 

It was intended the occasion should be celebrated in Dunedin this year but again the Covid pandemic disrupted the best laid plans.

 

Other rivalries extend well beyond 100 Tests. New Zealand and Australia have met 173 times while the original home unions of the game, as they were called, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all played around 130-140 Test matches against each other.

 

But even with their contests for Triple Crowns and Grand Slams, with France and Italy thrown in during recent times, none have managed to provide the drama, controversy and epic moments that the All Blacks and Springboks have conjured up through their 100 years.

 

For the first 70 years of the relationship racial issues were part of the mix. Then there was the hometown refereeing which persisted until the International Rugby Board [now World Rugby] made the appointments for the controversial 1981 series in New Zealand.

 

At least that ensured the series-winning penalty goal by All Blacks fullback Allan Hewson could not be put down to home-town bias as it was Welshman Clive Norling who made the call. But until that time many were the accusations of refereeing bias.

The facts are interesting: before that 1981 series South Africa logged the higher number of wins with 19 victories to 13 for New Zealand with two drawn.

 

But since, and including, 1981, neutral referees have overseen 46 victories to New Zealand and 16 to South Africa, again with two drawn.

 

That gives New Zealand a lead of 59-36 and a winning advantage of 59.60 percent against South Africa – its lowest winning percentage against Tier One nations.

 

Since the game went professional in 1996 New Zealand has won 41 Tests to 14 with one drawn.

 

In Tests played against other nations New Zealand's success rate is listed in brackets:

 

Australia: 173 Tests (69.36)

South Africa: 99 Tests (59.60)

France: 61 Tests (78.69)

England: 42 Tests (78.57)

B&I Lions: 41 Tests (73.17)

Wales: 35 Tests (91.43)

Argentina: 33 Tests (93.94)

Ireland: 32 Tests (90.63)

Scotland: 31 Tests (93.55)

 

 

While South Africa enjoyed a period of dominance between 1937 and 1949 by winning six consecutive Tests, including probably their finest, the 17-6 win over the All Blacks at Eden Park in 1937, and their 4-0 series whitewash in 1949, it was to be their last run of complete dominance.23

 

Since the onset of professionalism, New Zealand has proved far more consistent and it enjoyed an eight-Test winning streak between 2001-04, while it also established the highest score between the sides in the 57-0 victory at Albany in 2017.

 

South Africa missed the first two Rugby World Cups due to their sports isolation in the wake of world reaction to their country's apartheid policies, but since their first tournament in 1995, both sides have won the Cup three times.

 

They have met five times in the tournament since their first clash in the 1995 extra-time final. South Africa has won twice and New Zealand three times, the most recent being in their pool game at the 2019 event in Japan, where the All Blacks were the only side to beat the future world champions. Their 23–13 win was the first time a World Cup winner had been beaten in pool play.

 

Another consideration given the Centenary Test is being played in Australia is the success rates in Tests in that country. The All Blacks have played 96 Tests in Australia winning 60 with six drawn while South Africa have played 46 Tests for 16 wins and two draws.

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