CAPE TOWN – Excellence. Physical prowess. Skill. Dedication. Effort. Competition.
All of those words are just some of the things that characterise sport. And in the world of rugby, in particular, the All Blacks epitomise those descriptions from the very first word right down to the last.
Yeah, the attention of some might fade in boredom at the mere mention of New Zealand’s prowess. But it cannot be questioned, and it doesn’t seem like it will be open to question any time soon. That’s just the way it is.
Following the first weekend of the 2018 Rugby Championship - a weekend during which the New Zealanders transformed a “mediocre” display into a brilliant one - the gap between them and other rugby nations became a hot topic once again as Steve Hansen’s men went on to take their 13th consecutive Championship victory.
“It’s becoming boring”. “It’s not competition anymore”. “It’s not good for the sport”. Those are the kind of utterances and grievances that floated around following the Kiwis’ second-half dismantling of the Wallabies.
And while New Zealand’s dominance - dominance that shows no signs of stopping any time soon - has become expected, the onus is on the rest of the rugby world to step up and bring the competition. It’s of course something that will take time, and anyone who has ever watched the All Blacks go about their business should have noticed the effortless efficacy with which they execute their plays.
In the build-up to their opening try against Australia, which came two minutes before the break, a few things were evident again.
That stunning Aaron Smith try was a perfect reminder of New Zealand’s ability to hurt their opposition towards the end of either half.
The spell of play leading up to the try also showed why those men are so revered for their skillsets - from the way they neatly secured the ball from the restart kick to the sniping runs and clever running lines, the easy offloads, the support play and their appreciation for space and basics. It showed why their skills are always praised.
But their spatial awareness ... it’s their awareness and quick, almost instinctive reaction that made all of that work. It’s that awareness that set all of that up.
After spotting that Australia was short on defence out wide, they targeted the blindside and made use of space before running up in support, popping up on their mate’s open inside shoulder and moving into space in anticipation of the ball. They also showed quick hands (and fine execution) in seamless succession to score. So it’s easy to see why their skills and abilities are a favourite.
But spatial awareness is as important a skill as any other. It was in that instance and it always will be.
And they illustrated that perfectly. They always do.