Ali Williams seemingly offers hope, briefly, before snatching it away.
“Yeah, I believe they can lose,” says the 77-times capped Kiwi.
He’s answering a question about whether the best team in the world can be stopped at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“Will they? No. That’s just my humble view, but I don’t think they will be beaten.”
The Springboks’ thrilling 36-34 win in Wellington last Saturday caused consternation in the rugby world – the seemingly infallible juggernauts of international rugby aren’t so invincible.
It was the men from the land of the long white cloud’s first defeat in 10 games and just their fourth loss in 34 games since lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in London nearly three years ago. It was the Boks’ first win in New Zealand since 2009 as they halted a run of 11 straight defeats to the men in black.
“I think you’ve already answered that, if you look at the game from the weekend,” Williams, 37, said when asked about the possibility of New Zealand being stopped from winning a third World Cup title in a row in 2019.
“A game of rugby is very much on the day and what you’ve done mentally, physically where you’re at, South Africa proved that on the weekend.
“If you play right, get inside people’s heads and if you change the norm, then you can win. Which is the beauty of rugby and we don’t want to take that away.”
The former Blues and Crusaders man, however, believes that the South Africa defeat might well have served to only poke the beast.
“Yeah, it’s made you look in the mirror and that the mirror’s probably telling you the wrong answer and we’re not as good as we think we are,” said Williams, speaking at the annual Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch to launch the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday.
“Which is I think exactly what they want, a true reflection of where they are. I don’t believe they’ll change a lot but they’ll look at themselves individually and collectively and ask ‘how are we going to get better, how are we going to challenge ourselves more, because we can’t let those things happen’.”
Williams and former England and British & Irish Lions back Austin Healey entertained nearly 1,000 people at the event in Festival City, which is part of the excitement and build-up for the Dubai Sevens, taking place from November 29-December 1 this year.
“Loss inspires you,” added Williams, who represented the All Blacks at the 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups – earning a winners’ medal on home soil seven years ago.
“It’s not just fish and chip paper the next day, it’s until you prove yourself again in New Zealand. That’s a good thing and a great pressure to have. And it brings the best out of people. It challenges the team and the environment, everyone, so I think it’s good.”
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