1995 World Cup hero Joel Stransky has explained why he believes the All Blacks will struggle to beat the Springboks in either of the two upcoming Rugby Championship fixtures in South Africa.
The old rivals will clash at the Mbombela Stadium to kick off the 2022 Rugby Championship in the first Test between the two sides in the Republic since 2018.
They will then cross paths again a week later at Ellis Park in Johannesburg but, for Stransky, there has been too much drama going on behind the scenes in the All Blacks camp for them to overcome the Bok challenge.
All Blacks captain Sam Cane has had his struggles with leading the team, two assistant coaches – John Plumtree and Brad Mooar – have been sacked, while head coach Ian Foster’s job is still on the line as New Zealand Rugby has refused to back him beyond the mini tour in South Africa.
In an interview with a New Zealand radio station, Stransky said that Foster had been given a “stay of execution”, adding that he expected the All Blacks to struggle to beat the Springboks, even without altitude being a factor at Mbombela.
“It’s the lowveld, altitude won’t be a factor – but no, I think the All Blacks will battle to win,” Stransky told Newstalk ZB.
“It’s a sellout stadium, people are travelling from everywhere to make a weekend of it, there will be a sensational atmosphere.
“Then they go to Ellis Park, the mecca of South African rugby, and that will be even tougher. It will be a long, hard two weeks.
“[Foster] has got two weeks left to try and right the ship and that’s not exactly a show of confidence – it’s a stay of execution,” Stransky said.
“It’s hard to see our pack of forwards dominated – I think we will win them both, but close games are the nature of our rivalry.”
In offering the All Blacks a glimmer of hope, Stransky explained that the visitors would need to play a more expansive, high-tempo game.
“I do think they will raise their game and come back from the defeat against Ireland,” he said. “But that is so hard to do against a Springbok side that dominates up front.
“If the All Blacks are weak anywhere at the moment, it’s the ability to handle the confrontation. And we just deliver pain and suffering in the confrontational areas.
“That’s our game – mauling you out of the game, scrumming you into the penalty situation.
“It’s not particularly pretty, it’s not exactly positive, but it is effective and we are really, really good at it. We force the penalties and we force the points.
“I think the All Blacks need to play fast and expansively. The Welsh, who are not the best attacking team in the world, found ways through our defence and the All Blacks need to learn from that.
“They need to catch South Africa off guard when our defence is not organised and structured, avoid the big confrontational areas.
“They need to find space in the midfield and out wide … around the fringes and forwards they won’t find anything.
“But it’s easier said than done because you need a good solid foundation to do that, and we stop the opposition from getting that foundation.”
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