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Draw leaves Bledisloe Cup questions unanswered

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Lynn McConnell     17 Aug 2014     Getty Images

Saturday's 12-12 draw in Sydney was the sort of game where victory would have marked Richie McCaw's men as deserved holders of the record on their own.

Instead, the weather and New Zealand's indiscipline meant they were only able to claim a share of the record.

As a result it was sufficient to keep life in the Bledisloe Cup aspect of the Investec Rugby Championship, but it has gone a long way to increasing South African interest in claiming the title by the end of the competition.

Eden Park now becomes the focus for the Australians as they come to the fortress where they haven't won since 1986 knowing that they have to lift themselves again if they are to keep their Bledisloe Cup hopes alive.

The immediate concern for the All Blacks will be counting their injury losses with second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu and flanker Jerome Kaino being the main worries.

Nonu demonstrated his role, especially in Conrad Smith's absence, with a physical game that, had he stayed longer on the field, may well have proven vital in breaking the Australians down.

Being a draw several questions that were obvious before the game remain unanswered.

The most consequential was whether Ewen McKenzie's gamble in playing Kurtley Beale at first five-eighths paid off?

Clearly he wasn't able to produce the match-winning touch that might have brought the game Australia's way, but at the same time he did nothing wrong in keeping his side in the hunt.

Fullback Israel Folau was never given sufficient room to set up potential match-winning opportunities while the conditions demanded the loose forwards, Richie McCaw and Michael Hooper especially, were more confined to the tighter departments than might have been their wont.

It is not too hard to imagine that there will be a concentration on firmer discipline among the All Blacks as the build-up for next weekend's game. That they conceded so many unnecessary penalties was frustrating and reduced the ability of the side to give the world record a serious nudge.

What wasn't at issue was the defensive intent in the side, with some superb examples to deny the Australians the opportunity to convert the superior chances they created to score tries.

The sight of wing Pat McCabe thumping the ground after being bundled out in the corner by Julian Savea and Ryan Crotty was recognition not only of a chance lost but also of the quality of the defence.

And hooker Dane Coles' elusive sidestep after getting back deep into the 22m area in cover to tidy ball and deny the Australians again was a sign of how much he has grown into his role in the side.

It was in reality something of a damp squib of a game, where basic approaches necessarily over-rode the flourishes that might normally be expected in a match of its type and the sort of contest where the conditions sucked the intent and execution out of both side's game plans.

As a consequence, the players of the earlier 17-match sequences, the All Blacks of 1965-69 and the Springboks of the late-1990s, remain unsurpassed in their feats and the subjects of debate late into many evenings over who might be the best of them all.