Driving the All Blacks is the desire for continual improvement, but they have specific numbers in mind. At the top of the list is 18, the world record for a winning streak in tests.
Their victory over South Africa at AMI Stadium puts them on 15. Their two tests on the road against the Pumas and Boks will present their own challenges, not only because of the travel factor, but also for coach Steve Hansen’s desire to mix things up a little in Buenos Aires and Durban in order to freshen up his squad. Two more victories, however they get them, will put them on 17 consecutive wins – level with the record which they achieved in 2013-14 – and they would get a chance to break it at Eden Park in October against a Wallabies team who will consider themselves on the rise after two wins over the Boks and Pumas at home, but who haven’t won at the All Blacks’ fortress since 1986.
In Christchurch the All Blacks showed once again that they are out on their own as the best team in the world. But, having won the Rugby Championship after four out of six tests, and by scoring a winning bonus point in each, the world record is looming as the next big target.
Asked in the aftermath of the All Blacks’ 41-13 win whether his side were driving by their perfect record of bonus point victories in each of their Rugby Championship fixtures, assistant coach Ian Foster said: “I don’t think that’s powerful enough, really. You don’t go into a game thinking you’re going to get bonus points. We want to go into a game trying to dominate and play how we want to play. Championship points are a consequence of that.
“Us trying to put in dominant performances on the road in two pretty hostile environments – that’s certainly up there.”
Asked whether the “magical” figure of 18 test wins in a row, which started with their big victory over the Wallabies in Auckland before they went unbeaten through the World Cup and accounted for Wales in June was more of a driving factor, Foster said: “It sounds a little bit more interesting, yeah.”
He added: “It’s very satisfying. I guess wrapping up the Championship is more of a consequence of us playing some really good rugby and the way some of the other results have gone. It’s certainly pleasing to have it done after four rounds, but in reality it doesn’t change much, does it? We’ve still got two games on the road, our expectations are high and I’m sure the public’s are too so we’ve got to keep going.
“We’ve quite often talked about it. It’s about challenging ourselves to be the best we can be.
The Argentina game showed we were 40 minutes off in terms of our preparation – we weren’t ready physically for what they chucked at us, so we challenged ourselves as a group. It wasn’t just the players, it was the management to make sure we were prepared.”
Fixtures and Results
Dream Team Tipping
Should they achieve the world record, the All Blacks will turn their attention to going through the year unbeaten, which they achieved in 2013. They play Ireland in Chicago and Dublin, plus Italy in Rome and France in Paris during this year’s November tour.
They are talking points for pundits and supporters, but you are unlikely to hear the All Blacks talk publicly of winning streaks and records, as lock Luke Romano reminded the media today in his uniquely direct manner.
“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and think that you’re bigger than the game,” Romano said. “As soon as that happens someone’s going to tip you up and you’re going to look like an absolute dick.”