The Springboks’ fall to seventh in the world rankings is a stark reminder that expectations need to be aligned accordingly, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Since 2010, the Boks have won two out of 17 Tests against New Zealand. In that same time period, the All Blacks have won two World Cups and driven some scribes to suggest that nothing will stop them from claiming a third consecutive title next year.
According to the latest rankings released on Monday, a whopping 12,68 points separate the first-placed All Blacks and seventh-placed Springboks. Those are the facts.
Why then, some might ask, is there still this obdurate expectation from many supporters that the Boks should be capable of consistently overcoming the All Blacks at this point in time?
It’s a comparison often made between these two teams based on the rather outdated perception that the Springboks and All Blacks are indisputable arch-rivals. The reality is that these two sides are in fact at polar ends of their development.
The All Blacks have a settled squad and coaching staff, with their starting lineup for last Saturday’s clash against the Wallabies featuring 762 Test caps.
The Boks, by contrast, boasted just 437 Test caps in the run-on XV, while they are starting out on a new path with Rassie Erasmus, who is the third new head coach in the space of four years.
When Erasmus was asked for his views on the All Blacks after the opening round of the Rugby Championship, he sought to add some much-needed perspective to the conversation.
In referencing the rankings, Erasmus said the Boks need to go step-by-step in working their way up the standings before they could really begin making comparisons with the All Blacks.
Over the last fortnight, the fifth-ranked Wallabies have taken a beating at the hands of the All Blacks both home and away, with the media in Australia suggesting that coach Michael Cheika is increasingly coming under job pressure.
Yet, Cheika revealingly found an ally in counterpart Steve Hansen. The All Blacks coach quite frankly pointed out that Cheika and the Wallabies should not be written off just because they lost to this current New Zealand team.
He suggested that when future generations look back at this All Blacks side, it would then become especially apparent just how good they really are.
This is not a piece to pile more praise on New Zealand, but to point out a disparity in perceptions when it comes to placing the Springboks on a pedestal and expecting them to punch above their weight.
The fact of the matter is that the Boks are at the start of a journey, and it will take time for them to begin progressing beyond their current mid-tier status.
Unfortunately, it’s often the pressure of undue expectation from key stakeholders that prevents this process from unfolding along its natural course.
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images