The All Blacks are the No 1 team in the world, and rightly so. Their consistent play has given them a World Cup and they are deservedly at the top of the rankings at the moment.
Brenden Nell, SuperSport
But their general dominance has resulted in something of an aura around them, and they have been given the mantle of being the best in a number of areas.
People often romanticise about the way they play their rugby, and call the Springboks boring for employing tactics that are quite suitable when it comes to to test-level rugby.
Well, believe it or not, the statistics show the All Blacks to be a kick-and-chase side, although they remain an effective one.
MYTH ONE: The All Blacks are an all-out attacking team.
Statistics tell a very different story. A story of a team that plays very much like the Springbok teams of the past decade.
This Castle Lager Rugby Championship alone, the All Blacks have placed a virtual ban on running from inside their half. Consider the fact that they have received the ball a massive 124 times in their own half, and only on six – that’s right, six – occasions have they run from their own half.
They are much more likely to play for field territory, and try and put pressure on the opposition by putting the ball high and swamping the breakdown. Sound familiar? Well, it should. It is the same tactics that the Boks and Bulls made work for them for so many years.
MYTH TWO: The All Blacks don’t kick the ball away
Heyneke Meyer has harped on this point to anyone who would care to listen – and he is right. The All Blacks last year kicked way more than the Springboks and in this year’s competition it has been the same.
They average way more kicks, playing field possession and looking to score off the opposition’s mistakes. Aaron Smith has excelled with his box kick, and both wingers – even Julien Savea – have become a force under the high ball.
Ben Smith is not the leading try-scorer in the competition for nothing and as a former fullback is comfortable in the air.
The Boks on the other hand have regressed. In Auckland they didn’t take one of the eight balls kicked on them and it proved costly.
It gave the All Blacks an attacking platform from a well-worked kicking game, and when they sense an opening, they punish the opposition well.
But when it comes down to who plays the kick and chase, there is much evidence that it is the world champions. The difference is the accuracy of their kicking game at the moment.
MYTH THREE: The All Blacks’ defence is the best in the business
They certainly give away fewer tries than other teams and this is partly because of their dominance on the field. But the All Blacks commit blatant professional fouls in their own red zone without a worry about how the referees will see it. And too often, they get away with it.
Consider the fact that the majority of their penalties are committed at the ruck, and many of these within their own red zone, showing they would rather give away three points than a try to the opposition.
Too often referees are lenient and allow them to get away with blatant fouls on their own tryline, something that other teams don’t enjoy.
It is also no coincidence that before last weekend’s match, one Richie McCaw was the biggest offender, despite the fact that he had missed games for the All Blacks.
Referees seem way too happy to ignore his indiscretions with cards, and it simply underlines the case that the All Blacks get away with so much more than other teams.
MYTH FOUR: The All Blacks create tries out of nothing.
While there is a romantic view that they are the best attacking team in the business, this year’s statistics don’t really back up that view.
The All Blacks are clinical. They manage to punish opposition mistakes very well, especially from wayward kicks – such as Bryan Habana’s one in Auckland.
While the Springboks’ tries come mostly from lineouts – setpieces where they can set up a maul or other moves – the All Blacks have scored only 7 of their 19 tries through this method.
On six occasions tries have come from opposition kicks which were poorly executed. Another six came from turnovers – broken field – where most of the quick points in modern rugby come from.
With 12 out of 19 tries coming from unstructured play, it underlines the fact they are exceptionally good on opposition mistakes, and limiting this will improve the Boks’ chances of victory on Saturday.
MYTH FIVE: The All Blacks are unbeatable.
Credit must be given to the All Blacks for their consistency, and the manner in which they continue to lead the world in winning rugby. Winning is a habit, and so is losing, and the All Blacks have used every advantage in the book to make sure they stay on top of things.
But they are not invincible.
To beat the All Blacks you will need to be better than them on the day, get luck (and a referee) to go your way and simply stop them from doing what they do well.
There were glimpses in Auckland that the Boks could do this, but the referee played too much of a part in the game.
Still the Boks took a lot out of the fact that they managed to hold the All Blacks to a 12-5 second-half scoreline, and actually looked better in the last part of the game, despite being down to 14 players for the majority of the half.
The Boks need to overcome this psychological hurdle first, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of the world who will be watching this contest very keenly.