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The All Blacks Phenomenon

The 1924 Invincibles

The 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup has been and gone without a trophy in the All Blacks cabinet to show for it, but our national team continues to be a beacon, not just nationally but globally as well.

Despite the semi-final loss to England, All Blacks hit global headlines for bowing to the crowd at the end of their first World Cup game. A genuine gesture of respect, the move spurred a host of other teams to bow at the end of their games too.  In 2015 an ‘Originals’ All Blacks jersey sold in Cardiff for 180,000 pounds; in 2019 French fashion house Louis Vuitton created a collaborative bag with former
All Black Dan Carter, and Japanese fans flock to All Blacks matches played in Japan – World Cup or otherwise.

For a small island nation of fewer than five million people, and a sport that is comparatively unpopular to other sports worldwide, how did the All Blacks go from obscure rugby team to global sports
phenomenon.

The past 25 years have seen the All Blacks’ popularity skyrocket. The rise of commercial rights and professionalism in all sporting codes has played a large part in the All Blacks rise but it doesn’t explain the global attraction.

The first official All Blacks team ‘The Originals’ was established in 1905, but it was the 1924 team that set in motion the legendary benchmark that every subsequent All Black aspires to.  The 1924 team travelled by ship from New Zealand to the United Kingdom where they toured England, Wales, France, and Ireland for almost six months, playing 32 matches. The All Blacks won all 32 games convincingly and earned the nickname, The Invincibles.

Since then, the All Blacks’ winning record has sat at just under 80 percent. No other elite team in the world has come close to achieving a record like this.  How did they achieve such success in the world of professional sports where many other teams have more money, more resources and a greater pool of players to draw from?

It all comes down to the All Blacks’ culture, a masterclass in humility and being grounded. There is no time for show ponies in an All Blacks team. The All Blacks believe that the key to success is keeping their feet firmly on the ground. Their mantra of leaving the jersey in a better place helps achieve this sense of groundedness and a sense of a higher purpose.

The All Blacks haka is a visual representation of this internal culture. Performed to new professional standards in the ’80s under the leadership of former All Black Captain ‘Buck’ Shelford, the haka still sends shivers down the spines of spectators now. No other sporting team in the world has a pre-game ritual as significant, powerful or famed as the haka. The haka embodies the All Blacks’ team unity and even before the whistle blows, the weight and intensity of 100 years of success ruminates throughout the stadium, further cementing the All Blacks in history as one of the most successful sports teams on the planet.

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