Should the All Blacks feel worried?
The best two teams of 2012 met at Soweto, with the All Blacks emerging victorious after a hard-nosed first spell by the Springboks left them with virtually no fuel left for the second 40 minutes.
Credit where it is due and Hansen and his players must be congratulated by the way the have disposed of every team they have met post World Cup.
They have taken where they left it in 2011 and are still the best team in the World by a mile. Richie McCaw 100th test victory is an amazing feat and the team now seems poised to better the current record for consecutive victories at test level.
But as history shows, a year is a lot of time in rugby, and even though the All Blacks are riding the wave nowadays it is time they begin to feel some concern about their plans for the future.
We all know McCaw is doing his best to reach 2015 but, what if he does not? Young Sam Cane has still a whole lot to learn.
Is there any first five able to play anywhere near close Carter? Who’s going to be the hooker when Mealamu and Hore are gone? Dane Coles continues to shine in NPC, but it is not exactly the Test arena.
Who’s going to play second five if Nonu leaves? Is Messam really the answer to the void Kaino left?
It is time for Hansen and co to plan for the future, and the sad truth is that, at their best, it is going to be almost impossible that the All Blacks become much better than this, if any at all.
On the other hand, the young Springboks outfit can look to the future with a smile on their faces. Their forward pack had the upper hand on the All Blacks today for the whole first half and had the better of them at scrum-time (the All Blacks scrum being regarded as one of the best scrums in the World) while making the Kiwis lives difficult at times at the lineout. Possession and territory stats said it all.
And yet the composed All Blacks defense and a clinical display on attack put this very good team to the sword. What did they do wrong? Well, the Springboks failed where ironically the Wallabies succeeded against the All Blacks. The Springbok defense conceded four tries today, which is more than what the Wallabies conceded in both Bledisloe tests in 2012.
Had the Springboks defended with the ferocity the Wallabies did in both Tests, the superior forward display would have made life a lot more difficult for the best team in the World.
And yet, defense can be improved. Defense can be taught and learnt, and with experience come better defensive displays. The Springboks will improve.
And in the meantime, their players grow older and wiser. How much has Willem Alberts changed from his debut in 2010 to become a more round player, leading the team in their physical approach. Ditto François Louw. In Eben Etzebeth they have a future star, one that will make us forget Bakkie Botha.
The flyhalf connundrum is yet to be solved by Meyer, and I don’t think Jantjies will be his long-term solution.
All in all, plenty of room to improve for a Springboks team that now, certainly, have presented their credentials to become the best team in the World.
Steve Hansen better be prepared.
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