Legends line up to hail All Blacks World Cup winners "best ever"

Sport360 staff 09:56 02/11/2015
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Coach Steve Hansen and captain Richie McCaw (r).

All Blacks legends lined up to acclaim the current New Zealand team as the best ever on Monday, saying their domination over the past four years made the accolade indisputable.

Former All Black captain Anton Oliver said defeating Australia to claim back-to-back World Cups was a "momentous" achievement by Steve Hansen's men.

Oliver said he was no fan of comparing teams from different eras but evidence of the team's greatness was too strong to ignore after the 34-17 victory at Twickenham.

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"Without doubt the last 12 years have been unprecedented, the last four especially if we're going to call this the best team," he told Radio New Zealand.

"(Since the 2011 World Cup) there's been 54 Tests, we've only lost three and drawn two. I mean that's phenomenal. So I'd have to say yes, just on the record books, those stats are phenomenal."

The 81-Test halfback-turned-television commentator Justin Marshall said he normally also shunned comparisons, but admitted "this team has forced my hand".

"Statistically their record is incredible. Also, back-to-back World Cups," he told Radio Sport.

"Eight years of rugby that I don't think will be emulated.

"The success they've had, the way they've gone about it, the players that have come through that decade — legends with over 100 Test matches, one (McCaw) with more Test matches than any other person has got on the planet.

"This team is the best All Black team over a decade that we'll ever see, which is really hard for me to say considering I wasn't in it."

Graham Henry, who coached New Zealand to the 2011 title, echoed the sentiment.

"This All Blacks side is the best All Blacks side that's ever represented our country," he told Newstalk ZB.

Henry said the key to the team's success was striving for constant improvement regardless of what they had already achieved.

"They've ticked all the boxes but they won't be satisfied," he said. "They'll know that they can go another step, that's what it's about.

"When you're satisfied then you're dead. They'll never be satisfied hopefully and I'm delighted that I have had some involvement in setting the foundation."

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Bryan Habana hails Jonah Lomu's feats but ponders international future

Sport360 staff 13:12 01/11/2015
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Could this be Bryan Habana's last World Cup?

South Africa star Bryan Habana left the World Cup without breaking Jonah Lomu’s try record, but he has no regrets as he ponders his own international future.

Habana, a World Cup-winner in 2007, ended up with a bronze medal after the Springboks beat Argentina 24-13 at London’s Olympic Stadium on Friday.

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Despite carving out several chances, the South Africa wing could not score the try he needed to surpass the record 15 World Cup tries he still shares with retired New Zealand ace Lomu.

“I’ve probably experienced a lot worse in my career,” said Habana. 

“Unfortunately it didn’t happen. And I think sometimes things happen for a reason and maybe, Jonah’s name sticking around for another four years isn’t the worst thing in the world.

“I’m incredibly humbled to have equalled his record. He only did it in two tournaments. It took me three,” he added.

The South Africa hero’s 64 tries in 117 Tests leave him one shy of Australia great David Campese’s tally and third on an all-time list topped by Japan’s Daisuke Ohata with 69.

Habana has also enjoyed plenty of club success, helping French giants Toulon win the last two European Cups.

He is still with Toulon but when Habana went off 13 minutes from time on Friday — a decision South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said was down to cramp — there was speculation he had played his last World Cup match and possibly his final international as well.

Springbok great Victor Matfield, who is retiring from Test rugby, said that if he could play at a World Cup aged 38 there was no reason why Habana, who will be 36 in four years, could not feature at Japan 2019.

Habana, however, said he was considering his options.

“I haven’t really made my decision about where my future lies internationally,” he said. “But obviously it has been a massive privilege to represent my country at the highest level, to have gone through ups and downs and experience some amazing memories.

“I will reflect on where I am,  both physically and mentally, and how I feel.”

South Africa’s shock loss to Japan in their Pool opener – the biggest upset in World Cup history – put the whole squad and Meyer especially under enormous pressure.

For all that the two-time champions recovered to finish third, Meyer’s future with South Africa coach remains uncertain.

Habana said whether he carried on at Test level would, in part, depend upon the identity of the Springboks’ coach.

“I guess there are a lot of unknowns that first have to become knowns. Who is the next coach? Will Heyneke stay on? 

“Well obviously the best players are going to have an opportunity to be selected so… I think it might or might not be my call but like I’ve said, I had a great half a season and if it was my last, I was definitely very grateful for what it was.”

Habana’s fellow 2007 World Cup-winner Schalk Burger said he was contemplating an extension to his 86-cap career.

“I feel I’ve got enough energy and enough passion and there are things around me that say I can play one more game,” explained the 32-year-old flanker, who overcame a life-threatening attack of viral meningitis two years ago.

“I’ve been privileged that I’ve had an extended run in the Springboks jersey in this World Cup,” Burger added.

“At the moment, I just want to sit back with my best mates around me and drink a few beers and decide what happens in the future.”

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#360view: All Blacks record breaking win

Andy Lewis 11:58 01/11/2015
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Have your say on today's comment piece using #360view.

The most consistent, the most efficient, the most talented and undoubtedly the 2015 Rugby World Cup’s best team emerged as champions at Twickenham on Saturday night.

The All Blacks made history as the first nation to win back-to-back titles, the first to win three Webb Ellis Cups and, in doing so, perhaps established themselves as the greatest team the sport has ever seen.

What this triumph also delivered was ultimate vindication for coach Steve Hansen and his unequivocal faith in his veteran campaigners.

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In the intervening years between their 2011 and 2015 successes, more than a few have raised concerns that the likes of captain Richie McCaw, last night’s man-of-the-match Dan Carter, the irrepressible Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu and Conrad Smith had all hung on a little too long for this tournament.

Hansen has never wavered in his support of players who have produced time and again for their country and they have repaid him handsomely.

The All Blacks have shown the many sides to their game in this competition.

Their dazzling skills were on display as a bedraggled French outfit were put to the sword in thequarter-finals, while the depth of their character and sheer will to win were evident in the semi-final defeat of South Africa.

At half-time, trailing 12-7 with the rain crashing down and Jerome Kaino in the sin bin, the world’s number one team were staring into the abyss. But no side boasts the ability to solve problems like the All Blacks, to quickly identify issues, adapt and respond under extreme pressure and prevail. Winning is innate for them.

That rich experience is built upon the core of old heads, now all-time greats, that Hansen has persevered with when some called for fresh blood.

Carter was maligned for his form earlier in the tournament, yet in the final demonstrated why he will be remembered as one of the finest No10s to have played the game.

With a resurgent Australia back in the match and trailing by just four points having made the most of Ben Smith’s foolish yellow card, he provided the final’s defining moment, drifting back into the pocket and slotting a nerveless drop goal to kill the Wallabies’ momentum stone dead.

Carter has kicked eight drop goals in his 112 Test caps, but two in his last two at crucial moments in the semi-final and final.

It was experience, quality, timing and execution – bywords for this New Zealand team.

And when Carter nailed a longrange penalty from 51 metres to stretch the All Blacks’ lead to 10 points, the job was complete.

For Australia, they leave England 2015 with their heads held high. Coach Michael Cheika has transformed them inside 12 months and with players like David Pocock, Michael Hooper and Tevita Kuridrani to drive them forward, they can look to the future with belief and optimism.

Cheika may think long and hard on refereeing decisions which went against his side, missed forward passes and potential yellow cards. He’ll do well to maintain the philosophical standpoint he advocated when they benefited from an error to get past Scotland in the last eight.

But there was no shame in defeat for the Wallabies. They lost to the better team – quite possibly the best of them all.

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