A strong team or army is not judged on its many victories, but on its rare defeats. In rugby union, the New Zealand All Blacks played and won their first encounter in 1903. 113 years later they still cause havoc over their enemies. Are they unbeatable? No, in 1949 they had a bad season, appropriate named their “Black Year”. One of the reasons was that their Maori players were not welcome in South Africa, a nation ruled by Apartheid.
In his monumental The Phoenix Book of International Rugby Records, John Griffiths gives the details: “Six Tests were played and all were lost, four to South Africa and two against Australia. Uniquely, the series ran parallel, the South African tour taking place at the same time as the home rubber with Australia, and the first Test against Australia was staged on the same day as the third Test in South Africa.”
One bad season in 113 years…
Splitting forces is seldom a good idea. And the signs were bleak when both teams of Leuven left the Brabant Highlands and travelled the long and dangerous road to Flanders’ Fields. Passing Waterloo was unavoidable, and the soldiers were fully aware that at this same spot one of the greatest generals that has ever lived, lost his final combat. But they didn’t leave unprepared: it was a wise decision to leave their mercenary from the Prince-Bishopric of Liège at home.
When the outskirts of Gent dawned at the horizon, both teams went their own way. One army headed for the nearby city; the second continued the hazardous journey to that other place of meticulous checker play and razor sharp cube decisions: the city of Brugge.
In both towns the fighters from Brabant were greeted in dark and small streets by hostile inhabitants. Suspicious eyes under long hats followed their footsteps, broad shoulders forced them to step in the mud, barking dogs made life difficult and danger loomed behind every window or corner. Unscathed they reached the local taverns, where they were confronted with some of the lowest PRs mankind has ever seen in these surroundings…
(See the 4 Cubes 2016 Tournament Book for all the details of the combats.)