Public expectations of All Blacks too high

22 August 2012

The New Zealand rugby public should not expect big victories by the All Blacks every time they enter the international arena, according to a UC academic.

Public expectations of All Blacks too high

Associate Professor Ian Culpan

The New Zealand rugby public should not expect big victories by the All Blacks every time they enter the international arena, says a University of Canterbury academic. 

Steve Hansen’s All Blacks failed to produce a polished performance in their 27-19 rugby championship win over the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend.

But UC's Associate Professor Ian Culpan (Sciences and Physical Education) said international rugby was a highly contested and competitive environment and every game presented new challenges and strategies.

"New Zealand has extremely high expectations of their national side. The All Blacks are now into a new phase of their development where new ideas, new strategies, new coaches, new voices and new targets and goals are being set. 

"As outside observers, keen as we may be, we need to be mindful of this new environment. We need to be mindful that the new coaches will have different goals, both long and short term, and for the keen rugby observer it becomes an interesting exercise to quietly analyse what the 'newness' brings. This is the beauty of sport. This is the mystique of the All Blacks and the passion we have as New Zealanders," Professor Culpan said.

The All Blacks were very much a "future thinking" as well as a "here and now" side, he said. The coaches, along with all the All Black management staff, were spending a lot of time trying to get the new balance right. Lessons from the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup campaign would have been thoroughly examined and incorporated into this year's strategy.  

"The All Blacks environment continually seeks to improve; incremental improvements are part of the culture. This is why they are successful. The All Blacks management spends a lot of time ensuring that each and every player, each cluster of players and units within the team attend to matters deemed important.  

"The first test of a series often results in tentativeness, particularly around combinations. This present team will be all the better for the first test run and will now start to crank up the smoothness of operations. I imagine the All Blacks will be looking for accuracy and continuity in the test at Eden Park this weekend.

"But we as New Zealanders need to be mindful and respectful of the opposition. The All Blacks’ record over the last decade suggests that, despite some epic battles, they consistently find a way to overcome."

They seemed to be in control in Sydney despite the fact that they couldn't achieve complete smoothness or accuracy. Professor Culpan said he was impressed with the three young locks and how the defensive system basically shut down the Australian attack.

The All Blacks over the last decade had probably been the most successful professional sports team anywhere in the world, he said.  

"Management have ensured that the All Blacks’ performance record is outstanding. Equally important is their success in establishing a progressive and inclusive team culture that is focused on growth, development and performance. 

"It is very much a culture of learning, a culture of education which aspires to be the best. Their coaches and management have taken on roles of 'coach as educator' and lead the world in the implementation of such a philosophy. Here at UC our coaching degree is based on 'the coach as educator' and arguably leads the world in trying to develop new pedagogical approaches to this conceptual orientation."

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