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All Blacks will be a physical 'step up' from the Lions, Springboks warned

By Ian Cameron
Willie le Roux of South Africa argues with Anton Lienert-Brown and Samuel Whitelock of New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall believes the Springboks will face a step up in competition when they play their old rivals in the Rugby Championship.

The Springboks will go straight into this season’s Rugby Championship next weekend when they face Argentina in a two-Test series in Port Elizabeth, but their visit to Dunedin is where Marshall predicts the World Champions will really be tested.

Marshall faced the Lions in 2005 in New Zealand, when Clive Woodward’s campaign ran aground in spectacular fashion. That Lions vintage were no match for the All Blacks and the now infamous ‘Black Wash’ will go down as one of the most unsuccessful tours in Lions history.

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B&I Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend about putting the Bok defence under pressure
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B&I Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend about putting the Bok defence under pressure

Marshall now believes that current All Blacks, despite their patchy form over the last two seasons, will still pose a step up from Warren Gatland’s Lions, not least in physicality.

“The Boks are the world champions and the number one team in the world and I know it hasn’t sat well with the All Blacks that their big rivals have been able to sit on that spot without being challenged,” wrote Marshall in column for TheXV.rugby. “The Boks didn’t play a test last year.

“Regardless of the result in the series against the Lions, which I suspect they’ll win, they won’t be able come here with complacency because the first test against the All Blacks in Dunedin will be brutal.

“They’ll think that Lions series was hard, but respectfully, I think there will be step up under the roof in Dunedin and it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

“It will be the 100th test played between the nations and it will be massive because the All Blacks’ pride was bruised by that World Cup failure in 2019 and they haven’t been able to get a crack at the top dogs since.

“South Africa are a very good side – they have lots of depth, which they haven’t had in a long time. They have pace and they are very tough up front.

“They are the world champs for a reason and dare I say it, the team to beat. Given the All Blacks’ results last year and their challenges, the Boks are well ahead in terms of consistency of selection so they must come into the tournament as favourites. But their challenge against the All Blacks in New Zealand will be considerable,” concluded Marshall.

Read Justim Marshall’s full column here.


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