New Zealand’s greatest legends insist the Springboks remain the biggest challenge for the All Blacks.
The New Zealand Herald interviewed one of New Zealand’s greatest players Colin Meads, who said there was not a tougher Test match that the one against South Africa.
‘South Africa have always remained our greatest threat because they play a similar game to us, they are big, strong buggers and they knock us around a bit,’ he said.
‘They’ve got some enterprising backs … and they always seem to have a good halfback and five-eighths around there.’
Former All Black lock Andy Haden, who toured South Africa in 1986 with the Cavaliers, agreed with Meads, going so far as to say the All Blacks would struggle to win their Rugby Championship return encounter at Ellis Park in Johannesburg next month.
‘They’re the hardest team to beat but that’s at home, they have always been very difficult to beat there.
‘In the old days we used to say it’s hard to win in South Africa because of their lethal combination – a bent referee and a good goalkicker … I think the professional era may have taken the referee part of it out.’
Haden said the All Blacks’ commitment to fitness levels and ball-handling skills among their forwards had probably been the difference between the two sides since the game turned professional.
‘South Africa have always had a big, strong forward pack who are great scrummagers.
‘They would get a lot of possession and you had to battle like hell to get parity so they would usually have a territorial advantage and that’s when their goalkickers came in, he said. ‘But the modern game requires big forwards to be good at handling the ball and also the fitness levels of our side haven’t been really talked about much – our fitness levels are very high.’