If Steve Hansen and his fellow All Black coaches ever needed a blueprint on ‘how to sustain international sporting success’, they need look no further than the efforts of Spanish national coach Vicente Del Bosque, the man who inherited their title winning side of 2008 before subsequently leading Spain to unprecedented World Cup and European glory in 2010 and 2012.
By dismantling Italy four goals to nil in the final of European football’s showpiece tournament on Sunday night, ‘La Rojas’ clinched their third successive major title; a record which they hold alone over almost a century of competition. This record is all the more astonishing though, when you consider the raft of early exits, painful defeats and tears shed by both their players and supporters prior to their inaugural success at Euro 2008.
Getting the monkey off the back - All Blacks mirror Spain
In many ways, the pain suffered on the pitch by the Spaniards resembled the strife of the All Blacks from 1991 onwards. Despite enjoying a stranglehold on European club football and despite also offering some of the most technically gifted players on the planet, Spain often flattered to deceive on the world stage. Raul Gonzalez, Pep Guardiola and Fernando Hierro are just one legendary Spanish triumvirate of the modern era who have nothing to show for their exploits at International level.
At times one could conclude that they simply lacked a touch of luck, but years of repetitive failure had led Spain to question their playing philosophy, their unity and even the fragility of their psyche. Who does that remind you of, pray tell?
The All Blacks like Spain have now overcome their own much publicised 24 years of hurt. Their absorbing 8-7 victory over France in last year’s Rugby World Cup final was one for the purists and the relief in the air at Eden Park that night was palpable. The foundations for that victory were laid by Graham Henry and his assistants over the preceding eight years though and judging by the recent ‘blackwash’ over Ireland, the monkey of past World Cup failure is now well and truly of their back.
A ‘New Breed’ is taking over
The first and third test against Ireland in particular gave an insight into the talent which these rookies possess (as well as the coaches’ change in emphasis on attack). Might I add Aaron Cruden to that list of impressive young bucks too, who will surely be the first fly half to seriously challenge for Dan Carter’s crown. Carter remains as composed as ever, as his last minute heroics in the 2nd test displayed so evidently, but Cruden is showing skills in attack which even Southbridge’s most famous son must be a little in awe of. It seems inevitable that Cruden will eventually pair up with his Manawatu team mate Aaron Smith in the long-term for the All Blacks.
The future it seems looks pretty rosy for the All Blacks.
Striking the right balance
|Peter DeVilliers efforts a warning|
Evolution is possible if done correctly but one has to stay true to the principles which take you to the top of the table too. Play to your strengths and make minor changes along the way. I have faith that this current coaching team can strike the right balance between the two. Whether they can achieve it will be key to their continued success. We be on the verge of an era of dominance for the All Blacks.
If Hansen needs any advice though, he only need give the Marquis Del Bosque a call.