Say it with me: "It's ok to lose. It's ok to lose. It's ok to lose". That's it, now you keep doing those breathing exercises while I explain why.
First, if you are going to lose, lose by a margin that's small but significant. Two points is the largest number you can lead by such that the opposition can score the smallest possible number of points to defeat you. Which is a convoluted way of saying it's an incredibly small margin.
Second, if the margin is that small make sure you go down with all guns blazing. And this is what happened as Daniel Carter continually belted the ball of his foot attempting to win the game by one point. Some are claiming this is a new era for the All Blacks where "dropgoal"is not a dirty word. Those same people seem to basing these assumptions on a sample of two games, but let it not be for us to fall into the media trap of rampant speculation.
It should also be mentioned that Carter was firing these volleys after having suffered what could be favourably described as a "pre-emptive" defence by the Springboks.
Third, let the last score against you be so spectacular that the rugby gods themselves are caused to utter "Shit! Did you see that bounce?!"Ricky Januarie will go down in the annuls of South African rugby history as the plucky half-back who scored a try that required equal parts skill, moxie and luck and in doing so not only broke the All Blacks (very flat) defence, but also a world record streak of home wins and a 10 year drought of South African victories in Aotearoa.
And finally, it is always ok to lose to "the old foe". We have tussled with Australia often and with varying degrees of success. Against them we played a match that many claim as the greatest rugby test of all time (and it should be noted that we won that test). And yet our greatest rugby nemesis is South Africa.
It was 1956 when we (New Zealand) won our first test series against the Springboks. At that time, as it is now, New Zealand and South Africa were the two greatest rugby teams in the world. However, while we could best any other team, the Springboks had a record of 10 wins from 14 tests over us. Moreover, when we toured in 1949 they had whitewashed us in four tests (making South Africa the only team to ever do so).
While they were here (remembering, this was in the days of "real"tours) South Africa played 15 non-test matches, with losses to Waikato, Canterbury, and the New Zealand Universities team (described by TP McClean as "graduates, non-graduates and never-could-be-graduates"). Interestingly the first test of that series (52 years ago on Monday) was also at Carisbrook and we all know how many games the Springboks have won there: one, and only quite recently too.
South Africa is also the team with the best winning percentage against us, and rather smugly for us, it's 44.59 percent (30-41). Although if you only take matches since the game became professional it slips down to 28.12 percent.
Comparing our rivalry with South Africa to Australia reveals the following (numbers are rounded-up):
|vs South Africa||vs Australia|
|Average Score||18-15 (All Blacks)||19-13 (All Blacks)|
|Average number of tries||2 (NZ) -- 2 (SA)||3 (NZ) -- 2 (AU)|
|Biggest Margin||55 (NZ) -- 46 (SA)|
|50 (NZ) -- 35 (AU)|
|Most tries||7 (NZ) -- 6 (SA)||9 (NZ) -- 5 (AU)|
Do you know what happened on July 25th 1998? That was the last time we lost to South Africa in New Zealand. Last century. So long ago that Craig Dowd was making his crazy pseudo-political statements from the front row, and Jonah Lomu still only had two kidneys.
The last time we were beaten at home, the last time the bitter taste of defeat was force feed to us was Ö(I'm pausing for those who might want to guess)Öin 2003, when England were on their way to World Cup glory and beat us by two points. Strangely I remember that game as a dark rain soaked affair but the game report says different: "Weather fine and clear, light shower before match, ground firm".
Since then England hasn't come close to beating us (a points-diff of +131), that means that now we must focus on being South Africa's worst rugby nightmare. When South Africa returned to New Zealand in 1999 we beat them 28-0 (although in a bad omen when we travelled to South Africa in 1998 they beat us againÖ).
This weekend we also lost the world number one spot. We had held the spot for 40 months until South Africa knocked us off by winning the World Cup, they then held it for three games, before we took it back, and now it's theirs again.
Interestingly this also harks back to history. When South Africa and New Zealand first started touring to each other in the early part of the 20th century, the games were touted as "The World Championship of Rugby".
So in the coming weeks as the grumblers and Henry-haters start to bemoan our loss (and they will once the rugby news gets slow) just try to remember that a hero is nothing without a foe, and if we have to succumb, then at least losing to South Africa isn't as bad as losing to someone else.