Coach Peter de Villiers says the Boks can’t call themselves world champions until they beat the All Blacks. Wrong, Peter, writes Mark Keohane in the Daily News
The All Blacks play the Springboks on Saturday without the following: Joe Rokocoko, Aaren Mauger, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Richie McCaw, Jerry Collins, Chris Jack and Carl Hayman.
Rokocoko and McCaw are injured and the others are all playing overseas and with the exception of Collins have all indicated that they want to play in the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
The missing All Blacks total nearly 400 international caps and on average five years of Test experience.
That’s what the All Blacks won’t have on Saturday and that’s why there is never going to be a better opportunity for the Springboks to win in New Zealand. But is the South African mindset right to win?
I wonder, especially when Springbok coach Peter de Villiers calls the All Blacks the best team in the world and says that the Springboks can’t call themselves world champions until they beat the All Blacks.
Why are their young and unproven players given the right to be on a pedestal looking down on your experienced and proven world champions?
More accurate is that the All Blacks can’t call themselves the best team in the world until they win the World Cup.
The All Blacks are the equivalent of a sprinter who breaks every record and runs the fastest times every year, but at every Olympics chokes and never makes the final.
The Boks are the world champions until 2011 regardless of whether they don’t win another Test until then.
This nonsense that there is no such thing as a vulnerable All Blacks team or a weak All Blacks team also needs to be knocked on the head.
The All Blacks team that took 40 points at Ellis Park in 2004 was poor. Of the starting XV that day, 10 never played again for the All Blacks.
The All Blacks of 1949 that took a four-nil beating in South Africa were also not good.
There are other examples. For all the great teams produced in New Zealand, they’ve had their fair share of plodders wearing the black jersey.
South Africa’s rugby isolation made the All Blacks larger than life in this country and too many of our players and supporters still believe more in the myth of the All Blacks than the reality of players who, when put under pressure, are mortal. I am not dismissing the magnitude of winning a Test in New Zealand. It is not easily done and some ordinary All Blacks teams have won against better opposition at home because of the home ground advantage.
The same applies to Springbok teams who have got the better of superior New Zealand sides in South Africa. Saturday’s Test has nothing to do with the World Cup. It is being played in Wellington and not Paris. It is being played in cold and wet conditions in July in New Zealand and not on a cool evening in October in France.
It is being played under new laws and not the old ones that favoured South Africa’s no-risk approach at the World Cup.
Saturday’s Test is a present tense occasion and all that is relevant is the form and quality of the respective match 22s. History means nothing and neither does South Africa’s win or New Zealand’s blow-out at the World Cup.
What counts is how good either team is now and in terms of pedigree the Springboks, probably for the first time since 1992, have the better team.
This is no guarantee of victory and the physical attributes have to be complemented with a strong mental presence.
The reality is this: If a Bok team missing only Jacque Fourie and Fourie du Preez can’t beat an All Blacks team without Rokocoko, Mauger, McAlister, Kelleher, McCaw, Collins, Jack and Hayman, then they won’t win in New Zealand for another decade.
It is not arrogance to install the Boks as favourites and it is not raising unrealistic expectation. It is an acknowledgement of the player strength in the Bok squad and the vulnerability of the All Blacks, but the question is: do the Boks believe they can win in New Zealand or do they know that they can beat the All Blacks?
I am not sure they know it and that is why the Test is a 50-50 call when the advantage should be South Africa’s.Tweet