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The North will rise again

The recent November Tests showed the rugby community across the globe that the Southern Hemisphere dominance may be starting to crack.


The SANZAR nations, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, regarded as the power-houses of International rugby, more often than not walk into the year-end tours with high expectation – and deliver.


2014 however was a different occasion with New Zealand the only team to remain unbeaten – but not convincingly.


Tough games against England (a slim three point win) and Wales (where a late flurry of points saved the All Black's blushes) saw New Zealand forced to work for their wins.


The week preceding the Test window had the All Blacks and Wallabies warm up with wins over the USA and Barbarians respectively. 


For Australasia, it was the first match for new coach Michael Cheika to try turn around the controversial Wallaby team around.


New Zealand waltzed to a simple 74-6 victory over the USA – but they did bring rugby to the 60,000 people in Chicago.


Week one then saw New Zealand just pip a late surge from England in their 24-21 victory – had the game been 5 minutes longer the Red Roses may well have been able to topple the World Champions seeing as they were pumped up from a 79 minute penalty try.


Australia were also made to work in week one in an exciting match against Wales with Bernard Foley's steady boot being the deciding factor. Wales ran in three tries and a penalty try against the Wallabies' two – the match ending in a five point 33-28 win to the Wallabies.


The Springboks were the first the feel the brunt of a revived Northern Hemisphere as they fell to a physical Ireland team 15-29. The Six Nations Champions taking every advantage offered to them while the Boks squandered multiple chances.


Week two saw the Springboks bounce back against England, who again suffered another heartbreaking three point loss. Again, the Red Roses managed a late surge through a Brad Barritt try, but the match ended 28-31 against them.


The All Blacks travelled to Murrayfield with a much changed team and managed to defeat the brave Scots by a mere eight points.


In week two it was the Wallabies chance to lose, this time it was 26-29 the France who looked far deadlier than the score line suggested.


South Africa travelled to the continent in week three to take on Italy. It was a less than convincing display with a late Bryan Habana try adding some respectability to make it 22-6.


Australia managed to keep up their losing streak, this time against the impressive Ireland, however it was a thrilling match that either team could have won – the score line attesting to that as it ended 26-23.


New Zealand finished off their clean sweep of the Northern Hemisphere with a 34-16 win against Wales. The Welsh however would have believed that they had the All Blacks number right up until the 63 minute where four quick tries sunk them.


Finally, the Springboks ended the year-end tour with one more game outside of the Test window, They fell against the Welsh for only the second time in history, 12-6.


With the SANZAR nations doing so poorly in the North against the Northern Hemisphere teams, questions need to be asked.


Are the Southern Hemisphere teams getting complacent and dropping quality? Are the Northern Hemisphere teams upping their game against the World Leaders? Is it the conditions? Are there individual reasons? – like the upheaval in the Wallaby team and the injuries and club commitments to key players for the Springboks.


One thing is for certain, with next year's year-end tour falling under the heading of the Rugby World Cup in England it is bound to be a much tighter affair. Expect the North to upset the South at home on a couple of occasions.


Darryn Pollock



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