Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here Come the Men in Black

It’s easy to get a touch euphoric about the All Blacks, so I’ll let the facts speak for me. It’s been a champagne year (if you’ll excuse the French connection) for the Men in Black, who took out the Tri-Nations, the Bledisloe, and completed their fourth Grand Slam.

In the process the All Blacks took their all-time winning percentage to over 75% for test matches. That compares to somewhere in the low 60s for the Springboks and the mid-fifties for the New York Yankees if you prefer to compare with another sports team with a long association with success.

There were also special milestones for this particular All Black team in 2010. Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina are now the most capped All Blacks ever, with McCaw also being named IRB player of the year for the second time. Dan Carter passed Johnny Wilkinson’s record for most test points.

We also saw the long-awaited emergence of Sonny Bill Williams, who has helped to give the selectors a dilemma most national sides would love to have – which combination of world class talents will make the best world class mid-field?

Perhaps most encouraging of all, the All Blacks showed great composure in some tight test matches this year, which bodes well for the pressure matches of the world cup in 2011.

Some fans will be nervous that the ABs have peaked too soon, or might be developing a sense of complacency. They need not fear. If there’s one thing that the long break between world cups has taught us it’s that your track record counts for nothing, and the players know that better than anyone. Only the next 80 minutes counts – which is why they’ve been so successful this year.

Congratulations to an inspirational team of everyday guys. You’ve given us a great year, some thrilling victories and brilliant tries to reflect on over the summer break.