Former British & Irish Lions and England flyhalf Stuart Barnes has suggested the Springboks are too conservative in their style with the talent they have in their team.
Writing in his regular column for the Times UK, Barnes said the Springboks’ style was too concentrated on winning by stripping the game back to its barest essentials.
The former-player-turned-pundit wrote that the All Blacks put on a “kaleidoscopic display” to beat Australia in a record 57-22 win, while slamming a much-changed Springbok lineup for being “parsimonious” in their bonus-point victory over Argentina.
“It’s easy to see the All Blacks as the sport’s saviour against the muscular conservatism of the Springboks; easy but erroneous,” Barnes said. “As a former player, I have immense respect for the heart, spirit and commitment of these Springboks.
“As a fan, however, I hate to see how they are stripping the international game back to its barest essential when they have so much more to offer in the way of talent.”
Barnes argued that South African rugby had “taken a step backwards” under director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, while New Zealand rugby has been progressing under Ian Foster, who took the reins from Steve Hansen in 2020.
“Defence became the focus. It still is, with territorial control a crucial component against their rivals. In the South African rugby mindset, if they can beat New Zealand, they can beat anyone. The record stands up to scrutiny.
“To be not necessarily the best, but to beat the best South African rugby has taken a step backwards. New Zealand have long been heading the other way.
“Between the death of amateurism and the birth of the professional era, the Kiwis transformed their game into something slick and entertaining. New-look New Zealand were born. Their win record is remarkable.
“The capacity to take the game to unprecedented levels is likewise off the scale. The 1987 World Cup winners, the 1995 losing finalists, the 1996 winners in South Africa and the 2015 world champions all rank among the greatest Tests teams the game has known.”
Barnes added that when the Springboks and All Blacks face off in the 100th Test match between the two teams on 25 September, it will be an intriguing clash of styles.
“Fingers crossed that these teams are playing for the title when they meet. The clash of cultures promises to be something special.
“If New Zealand are able to recycle the quick ball on which [scrumhalf] Aaron Smith thrives, the ‘good’ guys with their naughty habits will be spectacular. If the ‘bad’ guys – with a defence designed to slow even the All Blacks down – wear down the men in black, it will be a triumph for ruthless planning and absolute power,” he said.
Photo: Gallo Images