How do you beat the All Blacks?

CNN  — 

Few teams – from any sport, any era, or any country – have a record that can match that of the All Blacks.

Since lifting the World Cup on home soil in 2011, New Zealand’s rugby team has boasted a win percentage close to 90%.

Its reign as the world No. 1 ranked side goes back nine years, and it comes as no surprise that Steve Hansen’s men have been hotly tipped to win a third consecutive World Cup in Japan next year.

When it comes to the depth of players at their disposal, not to mention the skill set and athleticism those players bring to the field, it’s little surprise the All Blacks have been rugby’s dominant force for the best part of the past decade.

But that’s not to say they’re unbeatable. Teams working out how to beat the All Blacks – which include England and Ireland in the coming weeks – will look to South Africa’s performances in the Rugby Championship for inspiration.

“You have to take your hat off to South Africa,” former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick tells CNN after the Springboks came close to recording rare back-to-back victories over the All Blacks.

“The intensity they played with – we haven’t seen that intensity for a long time. Their will and their fitness levels looked very good.”

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“The teams that take the All Blacks on are the teams that are successful normally,” continues Fitzpatrick, who won 92 caps for New Zealand in the 1980s and 90s including 51 as captain.

“The problem is you’ve got to do it for 80/85 minutes and there aren’t many teams at the moment that can live with the All Blacks for that long.

“Don’t be afraid – South Africa showed that. Their aggression levels were very high. They were very physical, they didn’t miss tackles, they took their opportunities.”

New Zealand let in 132 points in the recent Rugby Championship – the most it has ever conceded in the tournament. The somewhat porous defense is something that didn’t pass Fitzpatrick by.

“We’re fans who want to be entertained and the All Blacks play a very entertaining style of rugby which sometimes – as you saw during the Rugby Championship – can leak tries. That’s one area they’re probably looking to sure up.”

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The current schedule of international fixtures between northern and southern hemisphere sides gives nations a chance to see where they stand ahead of next year’s World Cup.

New Zealand began its block of games with victories over Australia and Japan – both played in Japan – before heading to Europe to face England at Twickenham this weekend.

When it was first announced, the fixture was billed as a long overdue clash between the world’s top two sides, but now Eddie Jones’ men have slipped down the pecking order having enduring a run of six straight defeats earlier this year.

However, a narrow 12-11 win over South Africa last weekend will give England’s injury-blighted squad confidence ahead of what will surely be its toughest test for a number of years.

“The young players did exceptionally well and we can look forward to New Zealand now,” Jones told reporters after the victory against the Springboks.

“We are going to prepare well and I cannot wait to play them. New Zealand are different to South Africa, wanting an athletic contest. We will not be wearing singlets and running shorts.

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“It will be a proper game of rugby. You want to face the best in the world and the Kiwis are that. Bring it on.”

Ireland is the most recent northern hemisphere nation to defeat the All Blacks – an inspired 40-29 victory in Chicago two years ago – and, with just one defeat so far this year, the likeliest northern hemisphere outfit to beat them again in the coming weeks.

South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Tonga, Fiji and Japan have all also traveled to Europe to take on the likes of England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy.

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But with less than a year until the World Cup, if there’s one scalp a team would like, it would be New Zealand.

“To challenge the All Blacks,” says Fitzpatrick, “the opposition has to play the game of their lives.”

Sean Fitzpatrick was speaking at the Laureus Sport for Good Global Summit in partnership with Allianz. Laureus Sport for Good uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.