For nearly a century the All Blacks have bestrode the highest rungs of the world rugby ladder. Year in year out, decade after decade, they have forged an international record second to none. At the beginning of 1999, the All Blacks' test match success rate was 71.6 per cent - far ahead of closest rivals South Africa (65 per cent), England (50 per cent), and Australia (47.5 percent). But these achievements cannot be laid solely at the feet of the hundreds of fine players who have put on the black jersey. Behind every All Black team there has been at least one master planner and organiser who moulded the players into a formidable, often superior unit. Some may believe it is only in recent decades that the "cult of the coach" has become the powerful, even dominating force of international rugby it is today. But it is not a new phenomenon. The controversies that raged through the late 1980s and 1990s over All Black coaches were not the first. Controversy has stalked many an All Black coach through history, in good times and bad. It has long been claimed the first supplanted and ignored by the 1905 All Black originals. Perhaps New Zealand's lowest point in history, the 1949 Springbok whitewash of the All Blacks, was preceded by the Vic Cavanagh-Alex McDonald coaching controversy that raged in newspaper columns for months. Other All Black coaches stood by their records - or fell. But playing the game of rugby and coaching it are evolutionary arts. What New Zealand has today under John Hart has been forged through the All Blacks's fabulous record over the previous one hundred years, and Hart readily acknowledges the new professional game owes much to his predecessors. Until now, however, the All Black coaches have never been paid their dues, never had their careers and contributions analyzed in depth. For the first time, these often-great coaches are examined in an attempt to understand what drove them to countless international victories and to understand their contribution to our growing national pride in the "men in black".
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