This is no new find or revelation; it’s just that it is reinforced each and every week that New Zealand rugby players take to the field ... be it in Super Rugby or in Test rugby.
So, if Bulls fans are being encouraged to pray for their beloved team, then Springbok supporters may as well follow suit. Allister Coetzee and his men are going to need as much support as they can get later this year.
The New Zealanders are simply in another league. Sure, a lot can be said of the poor defensive performances of the Cheetahs, Stormers and Bulls against the Kiwis, but more worrying is the fact that these South African teams simply can’t consistently match their New Zealand counterparts for skills, pace and power in attack.
The Stormers, for example, have been undone in New Zealand by teams who have “out-skilled” them; the Bulls, too, and the Cheetahs, too.
If it’s not the unheralded Marty Banks, it’s Richie Mo’unga, or Beauden Barrett, pulling the strings, leading their sides to comfortable, awe-inspiring victories, but it’s not just the flyhalves that stand head and shoulders above their South African opposite numbers. It’s the majority of the New Zealand players who, man for man, are better equipped to outfox a South African.
If we’re honest with ourselves, which player or players in our six franchises can do what Barrett did to the Stormers last weekend? Which player stands out as possessing skills to “die for”? Who in South Africa would walk into a New Zealand Test team?
Only the Lions have managed to match the best teams and players in Super Rugby when it comes to out-playing them on attack. Sure, they’re getting the better of very weak Australian sides this year, but last year they “out-skilled” the Highlanders, Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs. And they’re headed for a meeting with at least one of these teams later in Super Rugby this year and it’ll be fascinating to see how they fare.
I’ve got a feeling they’d stand up to them and match them for skills, pace and power even if they had to face them this weekend. They’re the one side that has somehow found the recipe to go toe-to-toe with the best, and win. That is why it is so mind-boggling that almost none of the Lions players are contracted nationally and none of their coaches are involved with the national team. But that’s a story for another day.
Yes, the New Zealand teams will leak some tries - that’s inevitable - but they will also, more often than not, out-score their opponents, and they know it. It’s the way they play their rugby and that’s how every South African team should view the game; that is, we’ll beat you by scoring more tries than you.
If that was the philosophy, perhaps our rugby would be in a far better position than it currently finds itself. Because, let’s be honest, it’s not good enough that the Bulls have scored only 22 tries in nine games, the Cheetahs 28 and the Sharks 24 when the likes of the Hurricanes (63) and Crusaders (61) are scoring at will. Only the Lions, with 48, and the Stormers to a lesser degree, with 40, have shown good attacking ability this year.
Coetzee’s biggest task in the coming months will be to find a way for his team to score tries. That is priority number one.