New Zealand-based rugby writer Ben Smith says the Springboks have “a golden opportunity” in 2022 to finally live up to their status as the world’s No 1-ranked team.
The Boks begin the Test season with a three-match series at home against Wales in July, before battling the All Blacks twice in SA to kickstart the Rugby Championship in August.
Smith, a RugbyPass.com columnist who has previously penned several pieces criticising the Boks and their 2019 World Cup triumph under Rassie Erasmus, argues that Wales won’t present much resistance after a poor Six Nations championship.
In his latest offering, Smith writes that the Boks will shrug off an underwhelming 2021 British & Irish Lions series win and end-of-year tour, to relish being cheered on by a partisan crowd on home turf.
“2022 looks far more promising for the Springboks. The expectations have been lowered after 2021, allowing for a renewed focus, while they have been handed a schedule that is favourable,” Smith writes.
“At home, they are a very different beast. Afternoon Test rugby in South Africa is feverish that brings the best out of the Boks and, unfortunately for Wales, they are going to be the sacrificial lamb in this instance.
“A more expansive style of play with deeper structures is more common of the Springboks when they play at home, and that could be expected against the Welsh.”
Smith also argues that the All Blacks “have never been more vulnerable”, with coach Ian Foster “clinging to older players and old gameplans”.
He writes: “Beyond the Welsh series, the Rugby Championship has offered the Springboks the best chance in a while to capture their first-ever full title as the previous home-and-away format has been discarded.
“Instead, the Springboks will play the All Blacks twice at home and the Wallabies twice away, with only a home-and-away series against Los Pumas.
“This has offered up a golden opportunity to take home the title as they will get home-ground advantage in both Tests against New Zealand.
“Many of Ian Foster’s new All Blacks have never played a Test on South African soil, and if their European capitulation late last year is anything to go by, the Springboks will sweep them.”
Smith warns that the “biggest hurdle facing the Springboks is likely to be the Australian tour”.
“They have not travelled well to Australia over the last 20 years, and this trend continued with back-to-back defeats to the Wallabies [in 2021],” he writes.
“This year brings forth a chance for South African rugby to truly earn their tag as World Rugby’s top-ranked team, which has been propped up for so long by their cakewalk 2019 World Cup win.
“The Springboks are here, ranked at No 1 on World Rugby’s rankings, after putting together a Test season that finished with a win rate of only 60% last year. If there was ever a time to validate that ranking, it’s this year.”