By Matthew Burke, Sun Herald
Click on the Auckland website and and you will quickly learn the city’s catchcry is “The Show Never Stops”.
That just about sums it up for teams when they take on the All Blacks at Eden Park. Next weekend the Wallabies will be the next team to attempt to scale rugby’s Mt Everest.
The All Blacks have not lost at the ground in 20 years. They have not lost there to the Wallabies since 1986. They tasted World Cup success there in both 1987 and 2011.
They call it their spiritual home and have used this to keep a psychological edge over touring teams.
I always wonder about the home-and-away scenario and how this directly affects teams. In theory it should not matter in the slightest. You play on the same-sized field and it has a set of goal posts at each end.
The only people that can affect the outcome are the 15 players opposing you.
The crowd cannot physically do anything, yet somehow this joint has built an aura that is now a part of folklore.
Mind you, I have contributed to the All Blacks’ two-decade reign by losing games there, in 1993 and 1999.
If you talk about the losses that have gone before you, you have taken the bait and already beaten yourself.
So what is needed to be successful at this place. Attitude goes along way, as does having a real dig.
What I mean by that is opponents must put the All Blacks under immense pressure and sustain it. Too many opposing teams have eased up, to their detriment.
Eden Park has become an inhospitable place for visiting teams.
I mentioned before about the crowd not being able to physically affect you, but its presence certainly has an influence on the game and it could be described as the 16th player, much like the supporters in Munster, Ireland.
It is also a place where you do not get any help. By that I mean it is just difficult to do things.
No one goes out of their way to help you, which is using the home ground advantage. Give them nothing, just the bare essentials.
I have not been inside the renovated change rooms but the old sheds were terrible for the visitors.
Old wooden benches, rundown, cold rooms, often devoid of hot water, just made the outing that much more miserable.
I’m sure if you asked the boys, they would know. When teams play in Australia they get it way too easy. We should dish out a taste of their own medicine.
Make it tough on them, stress them before the whistle sounds and see how they cope.
By the way, remember that website I mentioned? We are not even called the Wallabies. It’s the All Blacks v Australia. Surely another reason for us to break this hoodoo on Saturday night.
Now let’s put the Bledisloe to one side and spend a minute on the National Rugby Championship.
The revamped competition kicks off on Thursday and it is exciting times for a host of reasons.
The NRC is specifically intended to grow the talent pool in Australian rugby.
It will give the less experienced players a shot at big-time rugby and will bridge the widening gap between club and Super Rugby.
Off the back of the Waratahs’ success, it also will generate more hype, especially as some of the rule changes that have come into play have come mostly from a public forum.
The people talked, the ARU listened. The fans seem passionate about this one.
In effect, you could call the NRC an apprenticeship for aspiring youngsters.
If the powers that be find another Kurtley Beale in its ranks they will consider the tournament a success.
One area where the NRC will put the squeeze on some of the players is at the fringe of Super Rugby, those who are part of the squads but can’t quite crack the starting teams.
The Test and senior Super Rugby players are assured of their positions, but if I were one of the extras I would be looking over my shoulder.
In the past few weeks we have seen some great rugby being played in the Shute Shield and those coaches would have their players primed to play ball with the big boys.
This will be interesting.
We need just this sort of tribalism and for fans to get behind their teams. The way this is going to work is by mixing the younger generation with the more experienced Super Rugby and Test players.
Matthew Burke is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.