The 'special one' - flyhalf Beauden Barrett with four tries and 30 points. Photo: @AllBlacks via Twitter
The toughest punishment in world sport at the moment is facing the All Blacks for 80 minutes. It is a brutal, lung-busting business, and you are left with nothing but a dropped jaw to show for your honest endeavour.

It truly is the toughest test in sport right now. Forget a few rounds with Anthony Joshua because the big guy eventually puts you to sleep. Nice guy that he is, Joshua will do it quickly, generally, so that you don’t suffer for too long even when you taunt him, and look to get him off his game.

Facing some of the best football teams can be rough, but there is no physical pain involved. The likes of Barcelona may run circles around you, dominate possession and score for fun, but it is pride that gets dented. Not body parts.

The problem with facing the All Blacks at the moment is that they can deliver pleasure and pain in the same spoonful of medicine. They allow you the privilege of possession, even humour you with several phases. Then the hits get Joshua-like, and the wonderfully modern pitch-side cameras pick up the crunch of unflinching muscle on cornered bone.

When they are done tearing you to pieces, they take the ball off you, and then go Lionel Messi on you, with a dazzling array of steps and skills that simply take the breath away.

Combine that with the blinding speed and instinctive sense of timing that these Kiwis seem to be born with, and the whole thing becomes irresistible.

You will never find too much sympathy for Australians on South African shores. Not on the sporting field, anyway. Shane Warne, Steve Waugh and all those other red-ball bullies ensured that much. But for a fleeting moment, one had to almost feel sorry for the hapless men in gold, as each of their efforts were thwarted, before a black tsunami swept past them, on the way to the line.

The All Blacks are leading from the front when it comes to being the best team in rugby. Photo: Dean Lewins/EPA

Some of them were passed by as if they were merely beacons in a training drill, their presence deemed inconsequential by some astonishing footwork and pace.

In the moments after the incomparable Beauden Barrett scored his fourth try - who does that at flyhalf, by the way - the replays showed some despondent Aussie faces.

Sometimes, you just have to doff your cap at brilliance, and the stuff that Barrett produced in Auckland would have demoralised any defence, in any era. The superlatives have yet to be created to do justice to some of the stuff that the blindingly brilliant Kiwi pivot produces.

Maybe, just maybe, they have something apt in the Maori language, because English has too many rules to capture the unbridled shock he continues to inspire.

The Xhosa commentators got close, with reverential “Thixo!!” and “Thiza!!”, as well as the obligatory “oooohhhs” and “aaaaahhs”.

One day, when they are old men, with grandchildren, those sorry Aussies will reflect on 2018 at Eden Park with a sense of pride, happy to recall that they shared the field with greatness.

“Yeah, mate. That was me he side-stepped for that third try.”

“I reckoned I had him, fair dinkum. He ghosted me, mate. felt like he went straight through me.”

There is no shame in that, because one thing has become abundantly clear: The All Blacks will hold onto the Rugby Championship, the World Cup and the once keenly contested Bledisloe Cup for the next decade.

As for the rest of us, we are competing for distant second.

Heck, we could all produce our own trophy. Maybe even call it the Bloody Slow Cup, because we are light years behind the men in black.

There is no shame in that. Just ask the Aussies. And the Irish. And the English. And the French. Eish, these All Blacks... Thixo!!


Sunday Tribune 

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