SA critics assess All Blacks' future

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Sarugbymag.co.za editor Craig Lewis and senior writer John Goliath had different views on where New Zealand were at.

 

Goliath said, "All dynasties come to an end. It's inevitable. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. The West Indian Test cricket side of the 1980s and early '90s. The Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan at the helm. They all dominated their sport before their time in the sun came to an unspectacular end."

 

The All Blacks had been arguably the best team in any sporting code for 10 years. They had been trendsetters and innovators. But Goliath felt their semifinal loss to England might be the start of New Zealand's decline.

 

"Steve Hansen has stepped down, as has captain Kieran Read, and other stalwarts are likely to call it a day. The All Blacks' succession plan has always been good but they are struggling to identify the next coach to take the team forward," he said.

 

England had ripped off New Zealand's cloak of invincibility by dominating the All Blacks in areas they usually controlled. Players were leaving for Europe although not to the levels experienced by South Africa and Australia.

 

"New Zealand have many talented players and their feeder systems are very good. But they don't have the player pool that can sustain an assault on their resources. Not even South Africa, with its vast numbers, have been able to cope.

 

"It could be a long way back to the top for the All Blacks," Goliath said.

 

Lewis wasn't quite so negative in his thinking.

 

While Hansen and Read, and others, would leave some big shoes to fill, he said, "My suspicion is that we will see a scorned rugby nation respond with a backlash of sorts in the years to come.

 

"There is no doubt world rugby has become increasingly competitive, and it's been a breath of fresh air to see a serious shake-up in the World Rugby rankings that previously saw New Zealand entrenched at the summit for an unbroken 509-week period.

 

"The fact remains, though, that there is still a core of gnarly All Blacks stars such as Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Anton Lienert-Brown and TJ Perenara who will be desperate to steady the wobbling ship. Then there are the likes of talented Ngani Laumape and even Rieko Ioane, who were mostly deemed surplus to requirements for the World Cup in Japan.

 

"New chief executive Mark Robinson will be coming in and the former All Black will not allow the former world champs to slip into an era of mediocrity. Write them off at your peril," Lewis said.

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