New Zealand have been given a sobering reminder of their standing in world rugby, with Kiwi commentators still rating South Africa higher in the Test pecking order than the team ranked No.1 by the International Rugby Board.
New Zealand columnist Marc Hinton, writes in an opinion piece on the stuff.co.nz website that there was something “vaguely fitting” about the anti-climactic end to the All Blacks’ year at Twickenham last Saturday.
“After the giddy events of Marseille just seven days earlier, perhaps it was appropriate that the year should end on a slightly bum note, with the 18-25 defeat to the Bryan Habana-inspired Barbarians,” Hinton said.
“After all this has been a far from perfect year for Graham Henry’s side, with those three straight test defeats to South Africa, another to the French in the early part of the season, and a number of other rather unconvincing performances along the way.
“So even though the All Blacks ended the test year as the world’s No.1-ranked side, surely not even they would kid themselves that they sit above South Africa on anyone’s pecking order, but the IRB’s.
“Granted, some corrections were made late in the Tri-Nations and a run of six straight Test victories to round out the campaign was grounds for plenty of optimism. But there was no surprise that the South Africans, on the back of their heavy programme, staggered rather than swaggered over the finish line, and in the process lost that top ranking spot to the New Zealanders.
“The reality is they, and not the All Blacks, are the side that holds the whip hand two years out from the World Cup – for what that’s worth.
“It is perhaps of more pertinence that the BaaBaas, who became the third side to claim an All Black scalp in 2009 – albeit a non-test one – had a solid South African presence at their core, including fellows like Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, Morné Steyn, Jaque Fourie and that man Habana.
“So, even though Henry elected to send out a largely second-string lineup at Twickenham, it was still another All Blacks side struggling to get home over those buoyant Boks. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.Tweet