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Study suggests All Blacks likely to keep on winning
Having lost just once in their 27 tests over the past two seasons, the All Blacks' domination of world rugby is set to continue according to a new book based on a recently completed doctoral thesis.
The book, Legends in Black - New Zealand Rugby Greats on Why We Win, by former New Zealand Rugby Union and provincial player Dr Tom Johnson, has looked at how a country of less than 4.5 million people has managed to dominate world rugby for so long.
Massey PhD graduate Dr Johnson drew on his recently completed doctoral thesis examining the All Blacks’ winning culture over the past 60 years.
As the lead author for Legends in Black, Dr Johnson conducted in-depth interviews with some of New Zealand rugby’s biggest names including Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore, Sir John Graham, Ian Kirkpatrick, Andy Haden, Andy Dalton, Wayne Shelford, John Hart, Laurie Mains, Wayne Smith and Sir Graham Henry.
The study cites that the All Blacks have won more than 76% of their 516 test matches since 1903, 10% higher than South Africa, which has the second best record, winning 66% of their 432 tests.
New Zealand's winning percentage has exceeded 80 since rugby turned professional in 1995, but the culture behind their success can be traced directly back to the 1905 'Originals' and 1924 'Invincibles' teams, Johnson's study showed.
Dr Johnson explained "there has been an ethos, or legacy of winning since the 1905 and 1924 teams that has been carried on.
"We established very early on that legacy of winning. As such our public is very demanding of our coaches and players. Only winning is good enough."
Dr Johnson's interviews revealed that in the absence of the sort of coaching and management structures that existed today, the team culture was fostered by the players themselves.
And while the All Blacks now embraced the best of modern support structures, that underlying winning culture has been passed down through the years, from player to player.
He added "the senior players created an informal group that took over and set the standards and the values of the team.
"If the members of the group believe in those values and it shows them they can be successful, then that becomes part of the culture."
Dr Johnson's book stemmed from his PhD thesis into organisational culture and macro-environmental factors influencing change, and he argued that even the strongest culture was no guarantee of success if it failed to adapt.
He believed the All Blacks were an excellent case study for any organisation because of the way they have managed to maintain their advantage through their "commitment to learning" despite the revolution in rugby over the last 30 years.
Dr JOhnson continued "the world operates at such a fast pace, technological change is overwhelming us and to keep up, sports really need to be committed to learning.
"This is one of the things I found with the current All Blacks (from) the Graham Henry regime through to the current day is that they have made a commitment to learning."
That commitment has not just allowed the All Blacks to maintain their high standards, but to forge even further ahead of the rest of the world.
Dr Johnson concluded "culture is a stabilising thing and if you don't change you get set in your ways and there is the likelihood of getting beaten.
"That's why I think the current team have adopted a learning culture. They have to. If they don't they will be beaten.
"And that is what has made them very successful."
Dr Johnson famously wrote the original position paper on the need for a Rugby World Cup that was initially outvoted 17-1.
Legends in Black – New Zealand Rugby Greats on Why We Win is published by Penguin Books.
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