While the rugby fraternity probably doesn’t need it anyway, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has reminded all again that it would be foolish to underestimate the All Blacks going into next month’s World Cup.
The New Zealanders have looked vulnerable in the past few weeks during an underwhelming Rugby Championship campaign, culminating in a comprehensive 26-47 loss to the Wallabies in Perth at the weekend.
They also only managed to draw with the Boks in Wellington and scraped to a 20-16 win over Argentina.
Erasmus though noted that the All Blacks slumping a bit before the showpiece tournament is nothing new.
In both their 2011 and 2015 World Cup title victories, they didn’t win this years’ Tri-Nations and Rugby Champs tournaments.
“The All Blacks are the No 1 ranked team in the world and have been in that position for ages,” Erasmus said on Monday upon the South Africans’ return from South America, where they clinched a first Rugby Champs title since 2009.
“When you take their history into account, there’s a trend where they experience a dip in form in the 12 months leading towards a World Cup. One really shouldn’t read too much into the weekend’s loss and what it means for the broader picture.”
The Bok mentor also pointed out that all that will matter to Steve Hansen and his troops is peaking in Japan, something they’ve been extremely proficient in previously.
“The All Blacks are very smart with their planning. The team they sent to Argentina suggested a bit of experimentation and while they were perhaps lucky to win, that mix-and-match combination still managed to grind out a win.
“There’s always a plan with these guys. They’ll peak at the World Cup. I think the result in Perth is a bit of a setback, but they’ll be sharp next month. Write them off at your own peril.”
Meanwhile, Erasmus lauded his tightly knit group of players for masterminding a “satisfactory” campaign.
“We as coaches provide some frameworks and ideas, but it’s the players that take ownership and do the business on the field. They deserve the praise.”