Southern slaughter of the North

Keo, in his Business Day column, writes that all three Southern Hemisphere coaches will sleep easy this week.

Predictably sections of the South African media were on Sunday already making comparisons between how well Jake White will sleep this week and how uneasily New Zealand coach Graham Henry’s naps would be.

All is golden in South African rugby, according to these wise souls, after the Springboks’ dismantling of Scotland. All is turning to toilet in New Zealand rugby, in spite of an 11 point win against Ireland.

Just seven days ago the same wise souls had South African rugby on death row and New Zealand rugby immortalized. Seven days is a lifetime in rugby.

I’d venture to say Mr Henry will be sleeping pretty okay this week, given that he took the best of the woeful Blues, Highlanders and Chiefs from this year’s Super 14, added a Crusaders trio and a Hurricanes duo and then beat the best Ireland has to offer – an Irish team that won at Twickenham, came close to winning in France and did not lose again in the Six Nations. An Irish team decidedly better than the Scottish side currently playing the Boks.

After week one of the international season, perspective is the most powerful of analytical tools. Just like the Super 14 was not won by a South African team after one good round of matches, so too we shouldn’t be getting ahead of ourselves after one weekend of test rugby.

The Boks were very good in crunching Scotland. The pack was awesome against a Scottish unit that arrived in this country confident it had the firepower to match the Boks. It was bullish talk that turned out to be a lot of bull.

But we learned nothing new. The first choice Bok pack is in the top three of world rugby and on its day the best. We’ve known that for the last two years. The midfield of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie are the best we have, so too the halfback pairing that started against Scotland. And Andre Snyman is not a test wing.

The Boks did against Scotland what you’d expect a team of that quality to do: they thumped them. Given what we saw against the World XV a week earlier, it is debatable whether the Bok second stringers would have been as effective if tasked with the responsibility of dismantling the Scots.

Mr White will be sleeping well this week knowing his first team is still a potent force, but so too will Mr Henry, who will reflect on the following week in New Zealand rugby: the Junior All Blacks beat Samoa 56-12, the NZ Maori beat the US Eagles 74-6 and a mix and match All Blacks beat Ireland 34-23.

He will sleep well because these wins were achieved against World Cup opposition using three different squads, while a fourth starting XV will play the Pumas in Buenos Aires in a fortnight and a further eight of his Grand Slam-winning squad are still crocked.

So the three victories were achieved by using 45 different run-on players and without the services of 23 current All Blacks.

Mr Henry will sleep well given that he risked not including Dan Carter and most of his Crusaders teammates against Ireland and did the same with Jerry Collins and his Hurricanes teammates – the Crusaders and Canes being the two best teams in the Super 14.

Jake does not know if he could have rested Os du Randt, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery in Durban – and be boasting this morning about thrashing Scotland.

Perspective should be the Bok coaching staff’s greatest ally when assessing the first round of southern hemisphere international matches. White, because he is astute enough, will see Henry’s plan as having triumphed this last week.

The All Blacks coach got just what he wanted from the first outing of the season. He got a tough match, in which his team trailed 16-8 and 23-15, but scored 19 unanswered points and finished the match on the Irish tryline.

The Bok coach got what he wanted against Scotland, even if he used a different means to get there – and in Australia new Wallabies coach John Connolly got what he wanted in his team’s emphatic 34-3 win against England.

It is futile to just yet make Tri Nations comparisons between where New Zealand, South Africa and Australia are currently positioned. Each is playing different opposition, in different conditions and with different looking squads.

All we do know is that after week one of the international season each of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia’s coaches will sleep well, for at least seven days that is.