All Blacks embrace history ahead of Eden Park test
The All Blacks will target an 18th successive test victory against Australia on Saturday.
LONDON - The All Blacks have already been hailed as the greatest side in the history of the game but on Saturday they have a chance to go where no other top tier rugby team has been before when they target an 18th successive test victory.
Other countries have won two World Cups, other teams have been number one in the world rankings, but neither the 1965-69 and 2013-14 All Blacks, nor the 1997-98 Springboks were able to sustain a winning streak beyond 17 tests.
Saturday's opponents are trans-Tasman Sea neighbours Australia, who are on a 19-match losing streak against the All Blacks in New Zealand, and the venue Eden Park, where the Wallabies have not beaten their hosts in 30 years.
No team has beaten the All Blacks at their Auckland fortress since the French in 1994 and the world champions have already hammered Australia 42-8 and 29-9 this season to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 13th straight year.
It was their record nine-try, 57-15 demolition of South Africa in Durban two weeks ago, however, that had the great and good of the game lining up to proclaim that Steve Hansen's side had taken the game to another level.
RUN HARDER, TACKLE HARDER
With confidence surging through their ranks, Hansen has chosen to eschew the modern fashion for ignoring statistical achievements and instead used the winning streak as motivation.
"This group has shown it likes challenges, especially big ones like this one. No one has ever done it," Hansen said in Auckland on Thursday.
"We've got two choices, we can try to ignore and then enjoy it if it happens, or we can say 'this is an opportunity'. And we've chosen to say, 'Yep, it is an opportunity. It is there right in front of us, what are we going to do about it?'"
With Beauden Barrett on fire at flyhalf, hooker Dane Coles continuing his audition for a spot as a winger, and the rest of the pack moving the ball with a speed and accuracy most country's backlines would envy, the All Blacks look all but unbeatable.
Australia coach Michael Cheika has delayed his team announcement until Friday but some would argue it does not matter too much which 23 players take the field in green and gold on Saturday.
Cheika is promising no tactical masterstrokes either.
"There'll be some things we'll try but at the end of the day, it usually comes down to run harder, tackle harder," Cheika said this week.
"It's going to be a tough environment but that's where you want to be. If you don't want to be there, where do you want to be in footy?"
No one in Hansen's camp, however, will have forgotten that a draw with a poor Wallabies side ended a 16-match winning streak for New Zealand in 2012, and another two years later stopped the 2013-14 All Blacks at 17 victories.