1. The Kiwis only focus on their next game
Gordon Tietjens men do not tend to get ahead of themselves thinking about the draw and potential opponents. They play what’s in front of them with the players at their disposal. The country is not sympathetic to injuries and luck.
A standard is set and there is sufficient depth to demand that from any person pulling on the jersey.
Focusing on the job at hand partly comes down to experience with DJ Forbes leading from the front. He keeps a respectful eye on opponents and ensures the players’ feet remain firmly on the ground. Mikkleson, Raikubula, Cama, Stowers and Curry also embody the ethos.
The culture within the New Zealand camp is their greatest asset. Players come and go. Ego’s are (largely) kept in check. An elite level of fitness and performing under pressure are the hallmarks rather than blistering pace or block-busting runners.
Contrast that with Fiji (even though they are not playing in Glasgow). When it comes to rugby, the whole country only wants to beat the All Blacks. It’s a worthy goal for certain but it can affect other performances and is just not the kind of mentality that wins World Series. More on FIji below.
2. New Zealand’s range of performance is narrower than their opponents
Fiji and South Africa are both fully capable of beating New Zealand. They both have the players and their best performance on the day is usually enough to beat New Zealand – even when the Kiwis are playing their best.
Fiji can be sublime. They can make the game look easy as they stride out, back flip to a team mate who then passes inside to another of equal or greater pace. And that’s often just the forwards. It is a joy to watch Fiji in full flight. There’s nothing like it in world rugby.
They put 44 points on New Zealand in the semi-final at Dubai last year and showed why they have the most talented 7s players in the world.
But their tendency to focus solely on New Zealand and the occasional lapse in concentration has seen them fall out of contention on Day#2 at World Series events – something that’s never happened to the Kiwis.
South Africa beat New Zealand twice in finals in the last World Series (South Africa and USA). The USA was the 3rd time in a row beating the Kiwis at Sam Boyd Stadium for the title.
The Blitzbokke are an extremely talented bunch. Chris Dry is one of the most athletic forwards in the game. Alongside the hard working Frankie Horne and Kyle Brown, they make a formidable pack.
Branco duPreez is superb and a fit Cecil Afrika is still the best player in the world. The pace and strength of Seabelo Senatla and the work rate and pace of Werner Kok round out a balanced, potent back line.
But things fell apart at the final hurdle in Wellington in February losing 0-21 to New Zealand. They were stopped at the Plate semi-fInal stage in Scotland by Kenya (7-14) and didn’t go that much better in London the following week winning the Plate.
These fluctuations do not affect New Zealand like they do other teams.
And this is why they are always in with a shout no matter what the occasion.