Heyneke Meyer has nailed it when he says the All Blacks are every bit as good as they were a year ago. At least when they keep 15 players on the field.
Meyer, whose Springboks lost 20-18 to the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup semi-final, is backing the All Blacks to again win the Rugby Championship.
I share his view, although I have the Springboks winning four from six in the Rugby Championship and running the All Blacks close in Cape Town.
Meyer told New Zealand’s Radio Sport that the Sonny Bill Williams sending off created the illusion that the gap on New Zealand’s dominance had been narrowed.
He also felt that the gap was as big as it was a year ago.
Meyer said: I feel New Zealand is still the team to beat, and they will take a lot of confidence out of (the Crusaders) winning the Super Rugby final.
‘I don’t think the gap is closing, with all due respect. I know I’m putting my foot in it now, but if you look at most of those (Lions touring) games, whenever you have southern hemisphere refs you have quicker ball and that is when the All Blacks are at their best.
‘There is a big difference… with northern hemisphere refs, it is always more of an arm wrestle.’
Meyer said New Zealand remained the game’s trendsetters.
‘You can’t read too much into the Lions tour. New Zealand were on their way to winning the second test, and then the third test would have been totally different. Unfortunately, the incident with Sonny Bill happened.
‘If you look at it in perspective, considering midweek games as well, I think it will be total arrogance if you think we have closed the gap with New Zealand.’
The former Bok coach also expected the Springboks to be more competitive in 2017, noting they were hugely improved on 2016.