Fitzpatrick: ‘Why Boks can beat the All Blacks’

Graham Henry recently elevated South Africa to the status of New Zealand’s main opposition at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup in France.

 

Now, on eve of the start of the Tri-Nations series, he has been joined by legendary former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick in that view.

Fitzpatrick, writing in his weekly column in New Zealand’s Sunday Herald, said the Tri-Nations will bring the All Blacks into “direct confrontation” with the team he considers to be their biggest threat at the World Cup – South Africa.

“In the Tri-Nations, the Boks have the psychological opportunity the All Blacks had when they visited France last year – the chance to meet one of their biggest threats and to put one over on them,” wrote Fitzpatrick.

“I think the Boks have a good chance because of three things – they have momentum, started through this year’s Super 14 and which is continuing at international level; they have also raised their game and their skill level noticeably this year and because they now have belief and a coach in Jake White who is really starting to take them places.

“I also don’t hold with those who say the Boks don’t travel well. That was then, this is now.

“These days, players travel to play rugby, including to Europe and including many South Africans. I don’t think geography will be an issue.

“I have been very impressed with them this year. They have gone back to the Boks of old – big, powerful men like Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha – and have added big, fast loose forwards like Juan Smith, Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger.

“They are like us. They prepare like us, they have the same levels of fitness and athleticism as the All Blacks do and they have the ability, more than any other international side, to play us physically and to compete against us in the basics that the All Blacks perform so well.

“They have always had a good line-out. Now they have picked up their scrum very well – although I still think the All Black scrum against France showed its absolute power and dominance – and they have raised their skill level in terms of passing, catching and putting guys into space.

“They have real pace, from 1 to 15. I’d also say they are selecting better. Previous Springbok sides have been a bit wooden, perhaps, but look at their current props, for example. They have the likes of Deon Carstens and BJ Botha now – good scrummaging props but also well capable of taking the ball up and making offloads.

“There is another element to the danger posed by the Boks. They have a real hunger.

“The Super 14 gave them belief and Boks with belief are a whole new species. White has been very clever – he was refused official permission to rest and recondition people like Graham Henry.

“So he did it anyway, quietly and cleverly, and he has added depth and new young talent, like Francois Steyn, to his squad.

“In comparison, the All Blacks are coming from what I can perhaps call a more assured selection position. I know the 22 reconditioned All Blacks have no guarantee of selection for the World Cup but it will be a surprise or a free-fall loss of form that sees any of them miss out now.”

 

365 Digital

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