A Springbok win against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday would be an upset, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day newspaper.
The Springboks have won 13 of their last 51 Tests against the All Blacks. That’s the reality. The illusion is that it’s always a 50-50 game when rugby’s two greatest southern hemisphere rivals play.
It may have been so pre-1992 but with the exception of 2009 (when the Boks won three successive Tests against the All Blacks) the men from New Zealand have been dominant against the Springboks, winning regularly in South Africa, and winning comfortably at altitude.
Two of New Zealand’s finest wins came in the 2012 and 2013 Rugby Championship at Soccer City and Ellis Park respectively. The All Blacks scored nine tries in the process and the 32-16 demolition of the Boks in 2012 was among the most complete performances of an All Blacks team in South Africa.
South Africa have often troubled the All Blacks in New Zealand, especially on their last two visits, but many teams have troubled the All Blacks in New Zealand, but few have turned the trouble into a terrific win.
England this year were close in the first of three Tests and Argentina, in the past three years, have been a tough opponent.
If the Springboks win in Wellington on Saturday it will be an upset. It should not be expected. The supporter in all of us has hope and faith and the patriot refuses to accept any result is a formality for the All Blacks.
But defeat in Wellington needs to be measured against the 13 wins in 51 since 1992. Similarly victory. Beating the All Blacks in Wellington (or at Ellis Park in the last round of the competition) won’t make South Africa the No 1 team in the world and it won’t make the Boks a better team than the All Blacks.
Currently the All Blacks are the best team in the game and they have consistently been the leaders, home and away, since the Boks completed the 3-0 shut out in 2009.
A dose of reality is required.
New Zealanders remember the ones they lost against the Springboks since 1992; South Africans find comfort in the same ones, but the 35-plus Bok defeats it would appear are never a consideration among our rugby public.
I wrote at the weekend that the Boks are not in crisis because of a last-minute defeat against the Wallabies in Australia. And they won’t be in crisis should the result favour the All Blacks in Wellington.
The Boks are in a healthy state, even if their form this season has been inconsistent. Heyneke Meyer has restored integrity to the Boks in the past three years and the win percentage is close to 75. The Boks’ win percentage in more than 100 years of Test rugby was 63 when Meyer took over.
The vitriol aimed at Meyer is undeserving and screams ignorance.
Surely the support base is blessed with a bit more insight than the hysteria that follows each Bok performance. Meyer is the coach and his team gets to play. The beauty of your team or mine is that Morné Steyn never misses a simple touch finder and that referee interpretations and player injuries don’t interfere with our perfect match situation.
Meyer, in the past three years, has spoken often to me (and other rugby writers) about the demands of the job, the pressures of winning, of transformation and of appeasing the passionate South African support base.
In one such chat he asked me if the South African supporter would ever be satisfied with a Bok performance or if he just had to accept there was a faction that would find fault, regardless of the result or the performance.
No supporter accepts defeat, so style counts for nothing when the result is not positive. It led Meyer to say good rugby is winning rugby. Again many caned him for the comments.
My response to him was to never lose faith in what he believed in, to back the players he felt were good enough and to be true to what he felt was the best game strategy. I said if he won the World Cup there would be many who wouldn’t give him his due and I referred him to Jake White’s success. I said if he beats the All Blacks three times but lost to Ireland or Scotland there would be those slamming him and I referred him to Peter de Villiers.
The only one who can get fired as Bok coach is the Bok coach. My advice to him was to have no regrets when the day comes, and to at least know he was true to his philosophy.
I’d urge him to continue to maintain that mindset because the reality of Springbok rugby since 1992 against the All Blacks is 13 wins in 51 and Meyer’s reality in the last three years is a 75% win rate. He hasn’t beaten the All Blacks in four Tests, but then he isn’t alone, given the All Blacks have lost once in their last 34 Tests.
Photo: Sandra Mu/Getty Images