Sam Cane, in having to wait to for the Pretoria re-match against the Boks, said that it reminded him of the scenario in 2016 when the All Blacks lost to Ireland in Chicago and then had two weeks to steam about it before the second encounter in Dublin.

Hopefully that's where comparisons between playing the Springboks in Pretoria 2018 and Ireland in Dublin two years ago will end.

As Cane also said, the All Blacks' approach that day in Dublin was to be direct and confrontational.

[Springboks clash on Sunday shades of Ireland 2016, says Sam Cane]


They hadn't shown the requisite physicality in Chicago and so they came to Ireland with a determination to put that right.

By the time the All Blacks had won 21-9, the Irish accused them of having arrived with a little too much determination to be physical which they said had crossed the line too many times.

Such accusations are an occupational hazard when the All Blacks tour the Northern Hemisphere.

A somewhat checkered All Blacks history haunts the modern day sides and audiences in that part of the world can see sins and slights wherever they look.

But even when that game was viewed through a less jaundiced lens, it made for uncomfortable viewing at times.

Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled by Beauden Barrett of New Zealand. Photo / Getty
Sean O'Brien of Ireland is tackled by Beauden Barrett of New Zealand. Photo / Getty

An accidental head clash early in the game saw Irish centre Robbie Henshaw knocked out cold and set the tone for the rest of the game.

There were late tackles, high tackles and neck roles perpetrated by both sides. There was a touch of recklessness at every collision - a sense that neither team cared much if there was collateral damage caused.

It was the modern day equivalent of the infamous 1971 clash between Canterbury and the British Lions except the All Blacks were cast as the sole aggressors.


That was mostly due to the injury to Henshaw and the yellow cards shown to Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa. The latter was guilty of a high tackle on Irish wing Simon Zebo mid-way through the second half.

It met the red card threshold but referee Jaco Peyper was happy to show just the yellow – a decision that incensed the crowd who seemed to instantly sense that call effectively won the game for the All Blacks.

Fekitoa had illegally saved what appeared destined to be an Irish try and instead of having to play out the last 28 minutes with 14 men clinging to a 14-9 lead, the All Blacks only had to weather a 10-minute spell a man down.

They held on the way only the All Blacks can and when Fekitoa returned, he scored his second try of the game to effectively secure the victory with 10 minutes left.

Game won but reputation damaged and the All Blacks faced a hostile reception in the next few days.

Dejected All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty. Photo / Photosport
Dejected All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty. Photo / Photosport

Head coach Steve Hansen was interviewed on the field live on Irish TV after the game and when the third consecutive question came about the All Blacks' physical approach, he snapped. "Do you want me tell you we're a dirty side or something? Is that what you're saying?"

The next day Irish manager Mick Kearney spoke to local media and said: "The citing officer picked out 12 incidents during the game ... 11 of them referred to New Zealand.

"The one that referred to us was a clean-out of Sam Cane at a ruck and we were cleared of any foul play in that incident.

"There were a number of tackles and bangs around the head. World Rugby had said if these incidents occur then you are liable to a red card possibly. So that obviously didn't happen at the weekend."

What that game in Dublin did was foster this notion that under pressure, in a must-win game, the All Blacks are likely to resort to under hand tactics to get the job done.

It's not true but they didn't help themselves by coming at Ireland as if they were nothing more than a blunt instrument.

Hence Cane's point that the lesson he and others have learned is that the All Blacks don't have to respond to defeat by exclusively focusing on wining the collision.

They have to be physical but not at the expense of discipline and not at the expense of their natural, high-skill, high-tempo game.

The intensity they bring to Pretoria needs to extend beyond the collisions and extend to the speed and accuracy of their catch and pass.

They need to be alive to attacking opportunities and see the space as clearly as they normally do and have clear heads to be able to exploit it.

The red mist came down a little two years ago in Dublin and the All Blacks can't afford for that to be the case again.