The All Blacks’ dominance is good for world rugby because it’s changing the way teams are approaching the game, writes former Bok scrumhalf NEIL DE KOCK.
The Springboks were their own worst enemies against the Wallabies. The visitors played some pretty enterprising rugby in the first half at Suncorp Stadium, but they were awful in the second. The Boks succumbed to consecutive Rugby Championship losses owing to a lack of composure at crucial times.
It’s a tough road ahead for the Springboks, who play against an in-form All Blacks team in Wellington on Saturday. The Rugby Championship is relentless and unforgiving. Tackling the All Blacks is, and always has been, the ultimate test because you want to measure yourself against the best. It will prove a very difficult task because New Zealand are far and away the premier team on the planet and have been for a couple of decades.
The fact that the All Blacks have only lost once in 52 Tests played at home since 2009 is freakish. Any statistician in their right mind would suggest that there is no chance the Springboks are going to win this weekend. To be honest, I find it hard to believe that the Boks are going to turn everything around and beat the All Blacks in their own backyard. There is a much higher probability that they are going to be able to shock them in the reverse Test in Pretoria.
Unfortunately, the rivalry between the two nations has lost some of its shine owing to results over the past few years. In saying that, rolling over and dying is definitely not what Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks are going to do. When you come up against the best, you tend to raise your bar and level of intensity.
In terms of tactics, if the Boks limit the number of turnovers they concede, their kicking and exit strategy is down to a tee and everybody understands their roles defensively, it will hopefully decrease the All Blacks’ attack to a certain degree. Whenever the Boks have beaten the All Blacks in the past (the last time was at Ellis Park in 2014) their defence and kicking game has been top drawer.
However, this is one of the greatest All Blacks teams and what differentiates them from the chasing pack is their sheer ruthlessness from turnovers and their game-breaking ability. They have never necessarily dominated possession and territory in many of their matches, yet you look up at the scoreboard and you are 20 points behind. That proved to be the case when I faced the All Blacks in Wellington in 2002.
The All Blacks are able to come alive when they need to. They can be under the pump and then turn a game on its head. Their ability to transition from defence to attack is second to none …
The All Blacks keep breeding world-class players, which says a lot about their approach, mentality and their coaching from grassroots level. The Holy Grail for the Springboks, and any top team in the game today, is to reach the All Blacks’ level of consistency and rival them at some stage.
Can the Springboks beat the All Blacks on the odd occasion? I believe they can. I think the Boks are capable of defeating them in the odd Test and perhaps this is the year that they can surprise them like they have done in the past. The All Blacks are by no means unbeatable, but there is a bit of a distance to go to confidently say that the Boks are going to beat the All Blacks five out of 10 times.
Some critics have questioned whether the All Blacks’ dominance is healthy for world rugby. I believe the men in black are setting an unbelievable standard and changing the way teams are approaching the game, which can only be good for rugby. If the All Blacks are 20% better than the next best team then so be it. There is an aura around the All Blacks and I would never suggest that they shouldn’t be outplaying the rest because that is what every team aspires to.
I applaud the All Blacks because they are clearly doing something right and everyone would like to emulate them. It’s always fantastic watching New Zealand play and is a good advert for anybody wanting to get into the game.
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