Rugby Union: The All Blacks

New Zealand’s national rugby union team is nicknamed the “All Blacks” and is unrivaled for its level of success. The team made its international debut in 1903 against the Australians at Sydney Cricket Ground, a match that it won 22-3. It has only lost to six of its nineteen opponents in the interim and boasts a win rate of above 75%.

2015_Rugby_World_Cup_New_Zealand_vs_Argentina_(21391939030)The All Blacks have spent more time at the top of the World Rugby Rankings (introduced 2003) than all other teams put together. Their biggest rivals are the Springboks, or the South Africa national rugby union team. This rivalry began in August and September of 1921, when the Springboks toured New Zealand and drew against the All Blacks in a test series.

In the years 1924 and 1925, the All Blacks toured the UK and France and went unbeaten against Ireland, Wales, England, and France. This earned them another nickname: “the Invincibles”. The team struggled to live up to this nickname four years later, however, when it lost a test series 3-0 to Australia.

Through the 1930s and 40s, South Africa continued to be the All Blacks’ main rivals, inflicting six consecutive test match victories on them between 1937 and 1949. Impressive though that was, it was less remarkable than the utter domination of the New Zealanders during the 1950s and 60s. In that time, the All Blacks lost only 11 of 72 matches.

Between 1960 and the 1980s, controversy surrounded all matches between New Zealand and South African rugby teams, which was sparked when apartheid South African authorities objected to playing against players of Maori descent.

Aside from a run of five consecutive defeats in 1998—most of them in closely fought contests—the All Blacks have dominated rugby union in recent decades. In the 2010s they have, again, looked almost invincible, having lost fewer than 10% of their matches.

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