The best team in the world – the Springboks – pumped Scotland on Saturday. Ireland did the same to the All Blacks and England were always too strong for the Wallabies as Eddie Jones got an eighth successive win against the team he coached in the 2003 World Cup, writes Mark Keohane.
Given the year the world champion Springboks have had, how can anyone doubt their claim to be the best team in the world and also worthy of being the 2019 World Champions?
Scotland beat England at Twickenham, beat France at Murrayfield, beat France in Paris and last week beat Australia. They are the form team of the north and they’ve had a pre-season. The Springboks have been on the go since July, in a bio-bubble, against the British & Irish Lions and away from home for eight weeks in Australia and away from home in the past three weeks.
The Springboks, because of Covid, did not play Test rugby for 20 months. Half the squad were in self isolation for 10 days a week before the first Test against the British & Irish Lions. Yet somehow, the Springboks, without home support, in empty stadiums and forced to play all three Tests at sea level at the Cape Town Stadium, beat a British & Irish Lions team rated the best in the past decade by the man who has coached all of their teams, Warren Gatland.
Yes, there was the second Test stumble against Australia in Australia when the Boks were awful in the final 20 minutes, but both Tests versus New Zealand should have been won on neutral ground. The Boks had to settle for one Test all result, but in the past two weekends, they’ve doused the fire of the Welsh dragon and then beaten Scotland, the most dangerous team in the northern hemisphere.
All the rah-rah has been for the All Blacks because they score so many tries against inferior opposition, but against a pack that confronts them, they are not the same team. In 2021, they scored one try in a 19-17 last minute escape against the Boks, scored three tries and conceded two in losing to the Boks and in Dublin could manage just two tries and conceded three in losing 29-20 to Ireland. That’s six tries scored and six tries conceded in three Tests, when it matters, not 90 plus tries when there is no pack countering the All Blacks.
The Boks were magnificent in the last 40 against Scotland. They trailed 10-8, when everything suggested they should be leading by 10 points. Enter the famed bomb squad and they demolished Scotland in the second half to win 30-15.
The All Blacks led 10-5 at halftime, when they should have trailed by 20. They had made four times the tackles and had 25 percent of the ball. The second half scoreboard proved a justification of Ireland’s dominance. They won 29-20 and should have won by 20.
The All Blacks were never in the game.
The world of rugby has lauded Ireland’s third win against the All Blacks in 100 years, but that same world of rugby was so reluctant to laud the Springboks 37th win against the All Blacks in the last 100 years and second win in six attempts in the last 3 years, with both those wins being away from home, and another being a draw in New Zealand. Two NZ wins, by a point and two respectively, were in South Africa.
The South African public, on social media, raved about Ireland’s win, but this same public weren’t quite as complimentary about the Boks beating the All Blacks.
When the Boks beat New Zealand, their style of play apparently kills world rugby; when any other team beats New Zealand, it is giving life to world rugby. How fucked up is that for an analysis?
The Springboks, given the year they have had, are in a very good position leading into the 2023 World Cup.
The All Blacks, despite scoring so many points and so many tries, are nowhere more advanced than when England whipped them in the semi-final at the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
As for England and Australia, it was all too easy for Jones’s England in the final 20 minutes in winning 32-15.
All told, give the Boks their due as being world champions – and the worthy world leaders of the world game.
After all, they were the only one of the southern hemisphere big three to actually win up north on Saturday.