All Blacks streak ahead while the rest of us play catch-up

11 May 2017 - 10:02
By Brendan Venter
Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes celebrates with team mates after scoring a try.
Image: MARTIN HUNTER / AFP Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes celebrates with team mates after scoring a try.

A very clear trend of New Zealand dominance has emerged after 11 rounds of this year's Super Rugby competition.

By and large, the New Zealand franchises have surged even further ahead of the chasing pack this season and the rest of world rugby should be very afraid.

New Zealand outfits have dominated the Super Rugby tournament since its inception in 1996. To date, Kiwi franchises have won 14 of the 21 editions.

However, this season they have upped the ante by winning away from home at a rate never seen before. This term, the New Zealand teams boast a 93% win ratio on foreign soil, which is a worrying sign for their opponents and speaks to the overall strength of New Zealand rugby.

The New Zealand sides have always possessed the ability to attack well. However, on the evidence of this season, it's clear they have worked tirelessly on their defence and set-phases.

It has made them even more dominant and has eliminated previous chinks in their armour.

The unbeaten Crusaders, who hold the best overseas win rate of all the teams in the competition, have raised the bar this campaign.

In my book, the overall leaders of the competition have struck the best blend in terms of attack, defence, tactical kicking and set-piece play. Head coach Scott Robertson has created a brilliant environment and his charges are playing amazing rugby.

Backline coach Brad Mooar, no stranger to South African rugby supporters - having worked at the Southern Kings and the Sharks - has added immense value and sharpened the Crusaders' attack.

The Crusaders remain well-organised in defence, but they are now unstructured on attack, which adds to their unpredictability and keeps their opponents guessing.

The Christchurch-based franchise, and New Zealand teams in general, have prospered because they simplify all aspects of the game. By contrast, we tend to overcomplicate things in South Africa, which is to our detriment.

Moreover, New Zealand teams are dominant across the board because they are on the same page. They are open to collaboration and innovation, which is crucial in a sport as complex as rugby.

Owing to the culture of information-sharing within New Zealand rugby, it's no coincidence the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Highlanders have all utilised the kick-pass to devastating effect this season.

The kick-pass tactic, which flyhalves Beauden Barrett and Marty Banks executed to perfection against the Stormers and Cheetahs respectively, is not new to rugby, but the New Zealanders are leading the way in redefining how teams attack.

The South African teams must be credited for embracing a ball-in-hand approach this term and the focus on improving our players' skills is encouraging. We simply couldn't afford to continue with a conservative approach because the game has advanced. However, in the process of improving our attack, our defence has suffered.

We are faced with a real challenge - the facts don't lie and trying to chase the New Zealanders is clearly not working.

New Zealand teams are streaking further ahead and the trick is for South African rugby to do something unique because our standards have slipped. The Lions and Sharks are flying the flag for our rugby this season. But the picture is distorted because they have not had to tackle any of the New Zealand sides owing to the unwieldy conference system.