Cape Town - In terms of quality, Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss does not think the Springboks are far behind the world champion All Blacks.
The All Blacks have had South Africa’s number in recent years, winning seven of the last eight Tests during the Heyneke Meyer era.
In an interview with Netwerk24, the new Bok skipper acknowledged that the All Blacks are the best team in the world but feels they are “not light-years ahead of the Springboks”.
According to Strauss, the South African Super Rugby teams’ willingness to employ more enterprising game styles will reap rewards in the long run.
He did however warn that South Africa should not try and replicate exactly how teams from New Zealand play.
“I don’t think we should copy and paste the All Blacks. You’ll be second best if you try and mimic someone else’s playing style. It doesn’t mean we can’t renew or not be the pace setters in future.
“You can analyse aspects of the All Blacks’ game and apply it. You’ll be stubborn if you don’t do it.”
Strauss though warned that South Africa should not move away entirely from their strengths.
“The physical aspect has always been a part of South African rugby. It’s not something you should shift aside, but we have to grow.”
During the two rivals’ last encounter - in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in London last year - the All Blacks narrowly won 20-18.
According to Strauss, that game proved that there’s not much to choose between the teams.
New Zealand currently boast a healthy lead atop the World Rugby rankings. They have 96.10 points, followed by Australia on 89.33, with South Africa third on 87.66.
Strauss will start his tenure as Springbok captain with a three-Test series against Ireland which starts in Cape Town on Saturday.
It will be followed by Tests in Johannesburg (June 18) and Port Elizabeth (June 25).
Later this year in the Rugby Championship, the Springboks will face the All Blacks in Christchurch (September 17) and Durban (October 8).
World Rugby rankings (Top 20):
1. New Zealand - 96.10
2. Australia - 89.33
3. South Africa - 87.66
4. England - 84.60
5. Argentina - 82.59
6. Wales - 82.49
7. Ireland - 80.33
8. France - 78.36
9. Scotland - 78.32
10. Japan - 77.05
11. Fiji - 76.96
12. Georgia - 72.62
13. Tonga - 71.60
14. Italy - 70.78
15. Samoa - 70.36
16. Romania - 67.52
17. USA - 65.68
18. Canada - 64.27
19. Russia - 63.56
20. Uruguay - 63.23