Former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes the All Blacks are simply fitter than the rest of the world’s leading rugby teams.
New Zealand are the runaway champions in the 2016 Rugby Championship and are unchallenged at the top of the world rankings. The gap at the top came down to fitness according to Meyer, in an interview with the City Press.
“They are by far the fittest team in the world. If you look at their tight five, they’re not as big, but they can do their basics and still put in 30 tackles because they are super fit,” he said.
South Africa will meet the All Blacks in their final game of the Rugby Championship this weekend in Durban. Meyer has a close relationship with New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and said the model the Kiwis follow with coaching personnel was ideal.
“What people don’t understand,” Meyer said, “is that whatever happens off the field translates directly into what happens on it. This is where the All Blacks are ahead of the rest.
“When Steve Hansen goes to the next World Cup [in 2019], he will have been with the team for 16 years.
“All the best teams in the world have had one thing in common: continuity.
“They also have quality assistant coaches. You look at a guy like Wayne Smith… he was the All Blacks’ coach, but he’s now an assistant coach. They’ve got an unbelievable team culture where senior players sweep the dressing room,” he said.
Meyer added that the central contracting system employed by New Zealand Rugby was another significant factor because it required buy-in from players.
“When Dan Carter only played a few Super Rugby games last year, people said he was finished. He wasn’t… they were freshening him up and his dropped goal was the difference in our semifinal against them last year,” he said.
New Zealand’s ability at the set-piece was also good and with players like [Brodie] Retallick and[Sam] Whitelock and [Kieran] Read they probably have the best lineout in the world.
“At the World Cup semifinal, they took five of our lineout balls, which had never happened before. They’ve got a great scrum and their scrum makes a try like TJ Perenara’s against the Boks [in Christchurch this year] possible,” Meyer said.
The players also had significant rugby knowledge.
“When I coached Aaron Mauger at Leicester, I was flabbergasted when he invariably turned up with a notebook and he had gone through our games three times.
“An example of how well they read the game is the way they defend kicks. In the old days, our 10s used to kick. To do so, he would need to drop back in the pocket and if he did so, he couldn’t pass to the other players because they were in front of him. They [the All Blacks] knew that, so they dropped three players back to counter-attack.”
The All Blacks’ kicking game was also important and Meyer said while there was criticism South Africa kicked too much but when they played the All Blacks it was they who kicked more.
“The difference is, with us maybe one or two players can kick in the backline. All of theirs can, which is why they play two fullbacks in the back three. The way they kick is they move the ball along the backline until one of the defenders commits and the moment he does, they kick into that space.
“Their main strength is their kicking game because they are attacking kicks meant to put you under pressure. They kick on you until you kick badly, then they punish you. They kick the ball to get it back,” he said.
– African News