The All Blacks used up another get out of jail free card to win in injury time against the Wallabies 29-28 in Brisbane. This match was exciting, but the All Blacks have shown in their last two “dead rubbers” that they are mere mortals. Should we be worried that the gap has closed between them and their nearest rivals? England, Australia and South Africa have either beaten, drawn or come within a whisker of defeating the All Blacks which is a worrying sign heading into Rugby World Cup 2015.
The All Blacks scored a late try to Malakai Fekitoa which was converted by fourth string first five eighth, Colin Slade to give them a late win, but Australia pushed them hard and forced the All Blacks into uncharacteristic mistakes on defence.
New Zealand definitely miss Ma’a Nonu in the midfield with his experience. Fekitoa is exciting, but him and Barrett have been a tad vulnerable in defence, although they are both young players who have shown enough potential to suggest that they are worth retaining.
Is it time for the All Blacks to hit the panic button?
No matter how good the replacements are, it is hard to replace Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu who are vastly experienced. You must remember that the All Blacks beat the Wallabies in Australia and came within a whisker of beating the Springboks at Ellis Park.
The All Blacks are at a disadvantage, because despite there being nothing but pride riding on their last two away test matches, they are expected to win. The truth of the matter is that psychologically it is easier to pick yourself up for a must win Rugby World Cup final, than two dead rubbers.
The problem is that South Africa and Australia to an extent will take some confidence from their recent results which could help these teams take confidence into Rugby World Cup 2015.
Remember, this is the same Wallabies team which has been self-destructing off the field.
For the record, I am happy for Colin Slade who had such a poor run with injuries early in his career.
The other teams look to have closed the gap on the All Blacks, but you will notice that the New Zealanders have made a habit of winning most of their tight games despite not playing with their clinical best. They are bound to have off nights at the office, but hopefully this won’t happen in the big games that really count.
Should the All Blacks be worried? I think they need to be prepared, but they are still the best team in the world. It is hard to win away from home in rugby and they have largely been able to do that recently, although a loss on the November Autumn Internationals will not bode well for 2015, despite most countries only dreaming of winning three out of four test matches away from home! They weren’t at full strength and despite the other teams pushing them, they have largely stood their ground. The days of massive away wins over Australia, South Africa and England look to be over as these other nations appear to be back on the rise after some lean years.