Former British & Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan says the Springboks are too reliant on overseas-based players and that New Zealand is still the Test team to beat.
Writing for the Telegraph, McGeechan reviewed each of the top nations involved in the November Tests, pointing out a major strength, weakness, key player and giving an overall rating.
The Springboks, who beat Wales in Cardiff and Scotland in Edinburgh before faltering to a last-minute loss against England at Twickenham, were given 8/10.
“So impressive up front,” McGeechan wrote about the Boks’ strength. “Strongest pack in the world. And will add more variety to attacking game. Incredible athletes in the backs as well as the forwards. They are settled and with the return of Kolbe, De Klerk and Du Toit have strong foundations to continue to move their game forward.”
McGeechan said that Eben Etzebeth was the Springboks’ key player and that, as far as weaknesses go, the Boks will have to focus on their discipline and are “potentially overly reliant on overseas players”.
In terms of the European teams, England and Ireland both earned 8/10 after claiming wins over the Springboks and New Zealand, respectively, during the series while France, who also beat the All Blacks, was given 9/10.
Despite the losses to Ireland and France, the All Blacks were given an 8/10 rating as they comfortably beat a second-string USA team, Wales and Italy in a year when they also broke a number of points-scoring records.
“You cannot judge the All Blacks on the basis of an autumn campaign in which they were clearly running on fumes,” McGeechan wrote. “At their best, New Zealand still play a brand of rugby to which the rest can only aspire. Never out of a contest, as they proved against Ireland and France.”
McGeechan pointed to the New Zealand tight five and midfield as a major weakness of the current team.
“Outgunned by Ireland and France. Retallick and Whitelock are not young men any more. Ian Foster has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He also needs to settle on a first-choice balanced midfield.”
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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