All Blacks – Four Years on from 2011 ‘Back to the Future’

It seemed to be missed by some in the media, and especially by the All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. It was exactly four years on October 23rd, since the Rugby World Cup (RWC) final. Four years on from 2011, we examine what has changed and what is still the same.

The All Blacks “Back to the Future”

It has also been Back to the Future day this week, with the timeclock on the iconic DeLorean clicking over October 21, 2015, the fictitious date when Marty McFly goes back in time. While the two dates [2011 and 1955] are not linked, if we look to the future (this weekends semifinal between New Zealand and South Africa) and then we look back at the 2011 final, what is familiar are many of the current team members and their related success rate.

On Saturday, eight of the All Blacks will extend their records as the most capped All Blacks in their positions Richie McCaw (openside flanker), Keven Mealamu (hooker), Owen Franks (tighthead prop), Kieran Read (number eight), Jerome Kaino (blindside flanker), Daniel Carter (first five-eighth), Ma’a Nonu (second five-eighth) and Conrad Smith (centre) Importantly, all those men were playing on Eden Park four years ago.

When asked yesterday at the media press conference on the date, McCaw pasted comment “I didn’t even know that, but we’re well moved on from that I can tell you. We’re focused on the Springboks and the challenge they are going to pose. The team that can take the ‘moments’ best will be the one that succeeds.” The humble flanker with the World Record for Most Test Caps ended by saying “this group is excited. But um, I didn’t realize it was four years ago, so there you go.”

The fact he is unaware of the dates will be as much a team strategy, as it is a reality when you play rugby 10-11 months of the year. Some critics have suggested that the ‘Vintage’ All Blacks would not be able to perform in the intermediate four years, due to physical toll that professional rugby may take on their bodies. A few are hitting their mid-thirties, and in consideration of that you have to ask yourself “can they still perform on the International rugby stage?”

The proof is in the fact they have reached the semifinal after a magnificent victory over France 62-13. A record scoring victory in fact, as the New Zealand side are the top points scoring nation in all of World Rugby and over the last four years have been a high achieving unit with the winning-est record in all rugby.

That has been as much based as much on the victory in 2011, as it has been built after a series of disappointments: 1999, 2003, 2007 which were all were negative results on the field that were used as motivation off the field to reach the current successes now being achieved by this group. Looking back to the future you might say.

Coached by Steve Hansen, who joined the All Blacks coaching group in 2004, has complimented the 2011 side with some new players; Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Ben Smith to name a few. Each has brought new enthusiasm and energy when replacing players from the winning 2011 side. That continuum factor in sports means player rotation is required to refresh the team for future goals, even while retaining the experience that quality players like Dan Carter and Jerome Kaino provide.

On saturday night at Twickenham, that mix of vintage and fresh talent might see the All Blacks progress to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. If they do, then the awareness of lessons learned from the past and looking to the future are key elements that New Zealand rugby can celebrate as qualities they have utilized to ‘get the job done’.

While ‘Back to the Future’ was about getting home, for the 2015 All Blacks team it is about melding the past with the present. Last Word On Sports can only compliment this group on their recent successes and wish both sides [New Zealand and South Africa] all the best.

“Main photo”