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Herald on Sunday editorial: Just how good are the All Blacks?

The All Blacks lined-up for the anthems before defeating the Wallabies. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The All Blacks lined-up for the anthems before defeating the Wallabies. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Some of our rugby fans are a strange breed. This week, following another decisive victory by the All Blacks, some were calling the game boring. How any body with a sense of the game could find the current All Blacks boring is hard to fathom.

For quite some years now, All Black teams have aimed not just to win but to take their game to a higher level. Graham Henry instilled this ambition in the years leading to the 2011 World Cup and Steven Hansen has built on it since 2012.

Hansen and his co-selectors and coaches have taken to the team to such heights that Henry considers the latest side may be the best ever. Its first match against Australia in Sydney a few weeks ago was breathtaking in the speed and accuracy of their play, forwards and backs.

They blew the Wallabies away, but afterwards some of our folk found it easier to disparage the Australians than appreciate the All Black's display.

Likewise after the return match at Wellington, when the Wallabies resorted to niggle to little effect.

Since then, Hansen's side has dispatched the Pumas and the Springboks and claimed the Rugby Championship with three matches still to play. Fairly, we ask today, are the All Blacks the best team in any sport?

Last year they received the Laureas Award that recognises pre-eminence across all sports. Sportswriter Michael Brown has made a more rigorous comparison of their record with those of other great teams, such as the United States basketball teams of the 1990s, Spain's era in football that ended a few years ago, Russia's long dominance of ice hockey and Australia's cricket team of the previous decade.

The All Blacks 91 percent success rate since 2009 - winning 85 of their last 93 tests and successive World Cups - is at least the equal of the best. Basketball's unbeaten "dream team" won gold at three consecutive Olympics. Brazil won three World Cups of football in nits best era (1968-70) but Spain's European and World Cup winners of 2008-12 had a higher success rate (85 percent).

On pure records the most successful teams are female. The US women's basketball team has won 96 percent of its games since their first in 1976, and the US women's football team has won four consecutive Olympic titles.

So take your pick. We are comparing apples and oranges, chalk and cheese to be sure, but the All Blacks are up there on any measure. And they are striving to get better.

- NZ Herald

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