Steve Hansen has highlighted the primary factors that have continued to separate the All Blacks from the Springboks and the rest of world rugby. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Durban.
On Saturday, the All Blacks recorded their sixth successive bonus-point win to complete a perfect clean sweep in the Rugby Championship. The 57-15 victory at Kings Park saw the Kiwis equal the top-tier Test record for consecutive wins (17), while it was their biggest-ever victory over the Boks.
For the Springboks, it was another humiliating defeat in a nightmare season that has already seen them suffer historic losses to Ireland at home and the Pumas in Argentina.
After Saturday’s encounter, an introspective Allister Coetzee looked to be short of answers. He said the coaches and players would need to take plenty of time to conduct some serious soulsearching, while captain Adriaan Strauss appeared shell-shocked and out of excuses.
By contrast, the All Blacks coaches and players who chatted to the media were understandably chuffed. A winning team is a happy team, and while the New Zealanders did their best to play down their accomplishments, there’s no doubt there would have been some considerable celebrations into the early hours of the morning.
On Saturday, the margin of victory for the All Blacks was a record 42 points. In their two games against the Boks this season, New Zealand have tallied 98 points and scored 15 tries, while the Boks have managed just 28 points and one try in return. That perhaps most aptly illustrates the ever-widening chasm between the two teams.
Yet, as coach Steven Hansen moved to explain on Saturday night, the All Blacks’ success remains the byproduct of a rugby structure that is designed to set the national team apart.
‘The big thing we have going for us at home is that we have quality people and quality administrators making good decisions. The franchises are driven well and those coaches are striving to be better all the time. You can go right down to schools level where they’re trying to produce players that go on and become professionals. It’s a breeding ground for good players.
‘The golden goose is our central contracting system because when you have good administrators at the top in control of contracts, then everyone has to work together because you only have one paymaster,’ Hansen continued. ‘There are no other people with other agendas. Our only agenda is to win matches and produce quality players. There is a lot of work that goes both up and down.’
Beyond that, Hansen pinpointed the succession planning in New Zealand rugby that has ensured they’ve in fact only gone from strength to strength since last year’s World Cup despite losing legendary players such as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter to retirement.
‘We planned very well for the World Cup and beyond, we really did, and put a lot of work in to ensure we had a captain ready to lead from the front and Kieran [Read] has done that magnificently. We knew we were going to lose a lot of experienced players, but we’ve been working hard on our skills and game for a long time. Our defence and attack has really come along and we’re delivering a great product.’
There appears to be no limit to what this peerless All Blacks side can achieve, while there is simply very little hope in sight for a Bok team that continues to plunge to new lows.
Coetzee said he did believe there was still light at the end of the tunnel for the Boks, and Hansen did his level best to echo such a sentiment, but internally he will know that the All Blacks have now moved into a different stratosphere.
‘We’re a team that is playing with lots of confidence, and that has a snowball effect. Although we’ve managed to play well and put other teams under pressure, the rest of the competition has been really tight …
‘I still think South Africa can be a good team, but they need time now with new coaches and new players. They’ve lost some real experience, and it’s always very difficult to replace that. There’s potential for them to become a very good side, but patience will be needed.’
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images