All Blacks can break record for most consecutive wins on Saturday and the Rugby Championship will show the size of the task for northern sides at next year’s World Cup.
History beckons for New Zealand on Saturday in Sydney. Beat Australia in the opening match of this year’s Rugby Championship and they will have won 18 Test matches in succession.
No side among the tier one nations has ever done that. The South African side of 1997-98 managed 17 victories before losing to England at Twickenham and the All Black side of 1965-69 also won 17 before falling to South Africa in Pretoria.
You just cannot see Australia halting the march, even if there might have been a harbinger when New South Wales Waratahs defeated the Canterbury Crusaders on the same ground last weekend in an epic Super Rugby final, with the Waratahs fly-half Bernard Foley slotting a late penalty to secure a 33-32 victory and a first title after Richie McCaw was penalised at a ruck.
But Australia’s performance in this match and the rest of the tournament will be one of many fascinating aspects on view in the coming weeks. It might be dangerous to relate everything we see ahead to the Rugby World Cup in just over a year’s time, but with Australia being in the same pool as both England and Wales, their every move is bound to be heavily scrutinised.
And the increasingly uncomfortable reality for those up here in the northern hemisphere is that Australia are a much improved side, certainly from the lacklustre outfit seen at Twickenham last autumn, when England won 20-13.