There is much at stake in Brisbane this weekend when the Wallabies host New Zealand. The All Blacks will be looking to secure their record equaling 17th consecutive victory, their 100th test win over Australia and will want to mark Keven Mealamu’s 100th test cap in the appropriate fashion. While the Wallabies injury woes continue they will vividly recall the joy of beating AB’s in the corresponding fixture at the same venue 14 months ago. The All Blacks have shown no sign of complacency this season since the fright experienced against Ireland in the second test in June so anything other than a win for the men in black would be a surprise.
What’s not at stake at Suncorp on Saturday is the Bledisloe Cup because by winning the first two games in the series the All Blacks secured the biggest trophy in world rugby for another year. There is much confusion outside of New Zealand and Australia about the trophy and how it is contested; hardly surprising given how often the formula has changed.
The trophy was donated in 1931 by Lord Bledisloe, a former Governor General of New Zealand. Between 1931 and 1981 it was contested irregularly but between 1981 and 1995 was up for grabs annually. Since 1996 the Bledisloe has been contested as part of the Tri Nations or Rugby Championship. Over the years the series has been decided by anything from one to four games and in order to win the cup, the challenger has to win the majority of the games in the series.
As a result in years when only two tests are played the non-holder has to win both (or a win and a draw) to secure the Bledisloe. Critics of the system question why the holder should retain the trophy when the series is drawn one game each. Therefore it is a difficult series to win and for some this is what makes it special. It’s an indication of New Zealand’s dominance in recent years that the Australians have not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002.
The fierce rivalry that exists between Australia and New Zealand guarantees that this weekend’s game is anything but a dead rubber but were the Bledisloe Cup on offer the game would have even greater appeal. It is time that the rugby unions of Australia and New Zealand realised that making the trophy easier to win will not devalue it. The Bledisloe should be contested each time the sides meet (other than RWC) adding more spice to every encounter. In this age of rugby saturation, the more meaningful the game the greater the attraction and the greater the interest from the public.