Thousands of New Zealand children believe the All Blacks will make the Rugby World Cup final – but more than half expect them to blow it once again when they get there.
An online educational survey, CensusAtSchool, predicted the All Blacks will be waiting yet another four years to get their hands on what has been their most elusive prize.
Eighty-three per cent of the young respondents expected the All Blacks to make the final on October 23, but only 41 per cent thought they would win it.
This is in contrast to their parents, who are optimistic the All Blacks will secure the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time since 1987.
A Herald/DigiPoll survey in January found that 70 per cent of adults thought the All Blacks would triumph.
A UMR poll in April found even more confidence, with 77 per cent of adults sure of a NZ victory.
CensusAtSchool co-director Rachel Cunliffe, a University of Auckland-trained statistician, said the children’s results were “a bit of a surprise”.
“We had expected that as children and young people are often such ardent rugby fans, they would be talking the All Blacks right up.”
Ms Cunliffe said the students’ verdict was also remarkably consistent across geographical areas, age and sex.
Of the 83 per cent who thought the All Blacks would make the final, 35 per cent picked South Africa to be their opponents, ahead of the 30 per cent who chose Australia.
Of those predicting an All Black win in the final, 25 per cent picked a margin of fewer than five points.
Former All Black great Stu Wilson said the results were a surprise and also a bit disappointing.
“I saw over 100 kids of all ages running around in the mud on the North Shore on Saturday night and if you asked any one of them who will win the World Cup they would all say the All Blacks – that’s a rugby environment,” said Wilson.
“It’s still in our DNA. I don’t care what the league and netball or cricket people say, rugby is still our our number one sport … It [the survey] surprises me and disappoints me, to be completely honest.”
Wilson said the All Blacks had dominated the world rankings for the past decade, something the children surveyed might have missed.
“If their memory goes that far back and it reflects on their decision about whether the All Blacks can win or not, that’s sad – they don’t understand the world rankings and how good we are.”
Veteran rugby commentator Keith Quinn said the results were intriguing and showed children’s awareness of NZ’s rugby history and the tag the All Blacks had possibly earned as chokers.
“They know their subject obviously and are aware that winning the Rugby World Cup is not ever a foregone conclusion,” he said.
“I feel that the adult populace of New Zealand back in 1987 believed that the win over France in the first RWC was just affirmation of what we had felt for decades about how great New Zealand rugby consistently was … and that we would go on to probably win it every four years.”
Quinn thought South Africa should be favoured if they reach the final.
“The World Cup final has always been a grim, tough game, won by serious ‘let’s not lose’ rugby,” he said.
“South Africa with its big pack and tactically aware halfback and first-five are best at that sort of game, with excellent goalkicking and dropkicking experts too. They have won their only two finals by not scoring a try.”
“Maybe the kids know that too?”
The survey ran in schools from Kaitaia to Invercargill in May and June and involved 24,000 students aged 8 to 17.