Pretoria - While New Zealand collectively sighed a collective sigh of relief at not losing their World no.1 ranking this past weekend, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is not buying the theory that the All Blacks won’t go into the World Cup as favourites in a month’s time.
The All Blacks have held the No 1 spot for close on a decade and while Wales couldn’t snatch it away from them, there have been talk – much of it in New Zealand – whether their world dominance of the game is slowly coming to an end.
Losses to Ireland and the Springboks last year, and a draw this year against Erasmus’ team, coupled with their first loss to Australia in a decade this past weekend has had their critics salivating at the prospect that the mighty black jersey is one that is no longer as awesome as they have made themselves out to be.
But Erasmus pointed out when arriving back from Argentina with the Rugby Championship trophy in hand that while the Boks were happy with their upward curve, they don’t expect anything less than a strong All Black side when the two clash in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup next month.
And he doesn’t see anything else but history repeating itself when the All Blacks struggle before a World Cup, but are at their strongest when they enter the tournament.
“They are still No 1 in the world and they have been No 1 for a long time,” Erasmus said.
“I think every time the All Blacks look to struggle a bit around 12 months before a World Cup, and they take a dip. But if you look at who has the most World Cups – then it shows how they get out of that dip at the right time.
“I am not reading much into where they currently are. If you take the last four games between us and them, there was two points in it each time, and they’ve won the World Cup when they want to.”
Erasmus points to the fact that the All Blacks have lost games before a World Cup, but then peaked in the tournament for the last two tournaments, and rather than writing them off, sees them as dangerous foes that will always pose the greatest threat and be South Africa’s greatest rugby rival.
“They are very clever in what they are doing and currently they are trying a few combinations. If you take the team they sent to Argentina, it was a bunch of rookies that made the trip. There was a bunch of guys who were thrown together with not many test caps between them. They still grinded that game out and won 20-16.
“I thought they were a bit lucky there, but they got the win. I think they use the time well to try and plan things and they will peak at the right time in the World Cup in terms of using the right combinations.
“What happened this past weekend was a bit of a setback, but I believe they are really astute in picking the right time to peak as a team. I don’t think there is an All Black team that doesn’t go through a dip before a World Cup.”
The Boks open their World Cup campaign against New Zealand in Yokohama on September 21.
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