New Zealand’s dominance in this year’s Tri Nations spectacle is nothing new. In the short history of the tournament, the side wearing the silver fern has won nine out of a possible 15 times, including four out of five, and six of the last eight. But this year is unlike any previous Tri Nations, as New Zealand is set to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
For all of the All Blacks dominance over the years, they’ve only managed to win the World Cup title once. That was back in 1985, the first time the tournament was held. The World Cup has been held on just six occasions, excusing the All Blacks lack of success — to an extent. The other time they reached the final was in 1995, losing to a South African side of “Invictus” fame 15-12. The Springboks managed to slow down the freight train that was Jonah Lomu and escaped with an inspirational victory.
In recent memory, pressure is always immense on New Zealand heading into the World Cup, and since they first co-hosted the tournament with Tasman neighbors Australia. Next fall, they’ll host it alone, and the pressure to win will be unlike anything the All Blacks have seen.
Scores of Kiwis will be turning out in droves to support the home side, and anything short of hoisting the Webb Ellis trophy when all is said in done is going to be catastrophic.
Adding to that is the performances completed at this year’s Tri Nations. Just past the halfway point of this year’s tournament, Graham Henry’s side has been clinical, outscoring what are supposed to be the second and third-best rugby nations in the world by a score of 132-67. While three of those four wins have been on home soil, there’s little reason to take stock in either Australia or South Africa putting up much of a threat from this point out — the All Blacks need just one point to mathematically clinch the title.
An abbreviated tournament in 2011 may give an even stronger indicator of what this side is capable of — Tri Nations are generally shorter in World Cup seasons. But again, a performance similar to this one will also heap the pressure of expectation on the All Blacks.
For now, however, focus remains on the 2010 Tri Nations campaign. Only two games remain — a trip to Johannesburg for a test match at Soccer City, and a trans-Tasman journey to Sydney. A single point from the South Africa trip would see New Zealand clinch outright, while Australia needs to win their three remaining, with a bonus point in each, and then overtake the All Blacks in point differential. Translation: probably not going to happen.