Rugby Club: Rise of the Boks?

Last Updated: 09/01/14 2:21pm

It was a sensational year for New Zealand as the swept aside all comers and won all 14 of their games.

Whether they can carry on being that dominant remains to be seen, but former All Black skipper Sean Fitzpatrick says they will not sit on their laurels and will continue to set the benchmark in 2014.

"One of the sayings of the All Blacks is prepare as if you are the No.2 team in the world," said Fitzpatrick on the Rugby Club.

"They set the benchmark in 2013 but their coach Steve Hansen said that on January 1st 2014 they were going to draw a line under 2013 and move on. That is what they will do and they will work incredibly hard. They analyse the opposition, they analyse their own game and they work out how they are going to win and how they are going to dismantle a team.

"Hansen said that this is the hardest working rugby team he has ever been involved in. They all work incredibly hard and they also have an incredible amount of pressure on them to deliver. Not only from the New Zealand public, but also from the players within the squad. That is what Steve Hansen and his team have done so well; they have developed the talent within the squad for a long term goal."

Ieuan Evans says it is their focus on perfecting the basic skills that has impressed him so much but also believes South Africa will be stepping up their game too.

"What I like more than anything else about the All Blacks is their emphasis on skills. The hard work they do on the training ground just brings those skills to the fore. Their skill set is what has set them apart. At key moments in a game they are able to produce the skills to win games.

"I think they will be beaten in the next 12 months but they will still be the form team. I think they will be in an arm wrestle with South Africa to be the best team of 2014. I think South Africa have made the biggest strides in 2013 but there is no doubt that New Zealand were the best side.

"The boks have always put the emphasis on their physicality but now they are trying to bring that added dimension to compete against the benchmark team."

Stuart Barnes agrees and says that South Africa will be vying with New Zealand for the favourites tag come the World Cup in 2015.

"The big strength that New Zealand have is the one that you cannot measure - that is rugby intellect," explained Barnes on the Rugby Club.

"It starts with kids who are knee high and goes all the way up. They understand the game so well and I think South Africa are trying to develop that now too.

"What the boks do have is the power and if they get anywhere near to New Zealand's level of rugby understanding well that makes them the No.1 threat to the All Blacks.

"There were times in 2013 when they took the game to New Zealand in terms of power through people like Bismarck Du Plessis but then you combine that with players like Jean De Villiers who reads the game so well and intellects like Willie Le Roux, then you come back again to youngsters like Eben Etsebeth and you have the power, a growing understanding of the game and a combination of youth and experience.

"Right now if the All Blacks are eyeing 2015 then their biggest threat has to be South Africa."