Boks more settled than All Blacks ahead of big clash
All Black coach Steve Hansen has rewarded form ahead of reputation and he has settled on two wings who were sensational in the 36-0 drubbing of Australia in Auckland. George Bridge and Sevu Reece were the best performing wings in Super Rugby for the champion Crusaders, but it is only in the last two matches that Hansen has acknowledged their potency. He has left Rieko Ioane out of the matchday 23. Ione was the best wing in the world in 2018, but Hansen said he wasn’t the best wing in his squad on form. He was frank that those chosen to play the Boks currently offered the All Blacks more in their all-round contribution.
Ioane, said, Hansen had hit a rough patch and he would again have to wait his turn.
Hansen has made nine changes to his starting XV, whereas the only Bok change from the draw in Wellington is Siya Kolisi for Kwagga Smith.
The Boks are more settled as a match 23 and Rassie Erasmus has been very clear in identifying his best XV and matchday squad of 23. Hansen, by contrast, has mixed and matched, tried various combinations and got indifferent results. This has been a fractured All Black build-up to their defence of the World Cup.
I have written all year that the All Blacks would not win a third successive World Cup. They have been magnificent in their match-winning ability and sustained consistency in the last decade but this is a team in transition, when compared to Richie McCaw’s 2015 champions.
The All Blacks are never weak, but this is the most vulnerable I’ve seen them since 2009, when the Boks beat them three times in a row.
There has been speculation that the All Blacks have been holding back and that they will unveil some new-age attack, designed to break down the Boks’ rush defence. I am not buying it. What you saw from the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup matches is what they currently have, in terms of potency.
There are brilliant individuals, with the ability to score from anywhere, but collectively I don’t look at this All Black team and think how is it possible for them to lose. They have been beaten by Ireland, South Africa and Australia in the past two years, and they edged England by a point the last time the two met at Twickenham.
I see a superior Boks pack and one that will dominate the All Blacks, who have lost physicality and presence in being unable to replace a Jerome Kaino-type player. I also think they have lost more than they have gained by moving Beauden Barrett from flyhalf to fullback.
Barrett troubles SA more than Richie Mo’unga does. I have the Boks to win 24-20 in a game that will be an arm wrestle because of conditions.@Mark_Keohane