One South African pundit believes the All Blacks are in for a catastrophic Rugby Championship, while the Springboks will claim top honours for the first time in almost ten years.
Sport24 columnist Mark Keohane heaped praise on the in-form Springboks, who are looking to sweep England 3-0 under new coach Rassie Erasmus.
“The Springboks will win the Rugby Championship. The All Blacks won’t finish in the top two,” Keohane wrote in his Sport24 column.
“What was there to fear about the All Blacks? To those who put the All Blacks on a pedestal so high that all visual of their fallibility is blurred, take an aerial view of the men in black. You’ll see more inglorious than glorious.
“The core of that wonderfully talented 2015 World Cup squad is gone. The next generation isn’t anywhere near as potent.”
Keohane said the All Blacks’ effort last weekend was “woeful for an hour against a very limited French team” and argued they “were even worse” after gaining a one-man advantage after France fullback Benjamin Fall was shown a red card in the 12th minute.
Keohane believes the forward pack is where the Springboks gain the upper hand, and noted that the All Blacks pack has struggled against France.
“Erasmus is building a pack of forwards that will be the envy of every coach. He is also, thanks to the inclusion of Lions head coach Swys de Bruin, adding an attacking dimension to South Africa’s back play,” he continued.
“South Africa, on balance, have more depth and quality in their forwards than New Zealand. The Wallabies have greater presence in their backs than the All Blacks.
“The All Blacks aren’t as good as many think and the Springboks and Wallabies are better than most think.”
The 2018 Rugby Championship starts in August.
The All Blacks will play the Springboks once at home in Wellington and once in Pretoria. They will play the Wallabies in Sydney and Auckland.
In other news:
Watch every match of the June and November Internationals streaming live on RugbyPass, home of the world's best global rugby coverage including news, highlights, previews & reviews, fantasy, live stats, and more!