Johannesburg - Legendary former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick admits that he thought the Springboks would have the edge over New Zealand in the current Tri-Nations series, but pointed out where he thought the Kiwis got their noses in front by winning all four of their matches to date with 19 out of a possible 20 log points in the bag.
Fitzpatrick, the only All Blacks captain to lead his side to a series win over South Africa when they won in 1996, is in South Africa as an ambassador for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand in September and October next year.
He is part of a New Zealand delegation to create an awareness of the tour among South Africans and also to establish ties at other levels and particularly business as part of the run-in to the World Cup.
Fitzpatrick is obviously looking forward to the Tri-Nations Test at FNB Stadium on Saturday and warns that the All Blacks, despite their two huge wins in Auckland and Wellington, will not have it all their own way.
"A wounded South African side is always dangerous," he said.
Fitzpatrick said the performances by South African sides in the Super 14 and the Boks' world class players like Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield had pointed to South Africa again dominating the Tri-Nations series. Where things went wrong for South Africa was with the injuries and the suspensions, which denied them continuity in team selections and building combinations, Fitzpatrick felt.
About the recent two matches between the two old adversaries in New Zealand Fitzpatrick said that the "Springboks were outplayed and outcoached."
Another reason for the turnaround in performance by the All Blacks this year is that they spend more time studying the game and the opposition, says Fitzpatrick.
"They're masters at the ruck because they're coached to clean out opposition players quicker than anyone else. The All Blacks are also better in the contact are than anyone else and their skills level is another step up.
"They think about the game, and it's not just about spending five hours in the gym for them."
The planning by the All Blacks also has his support.
"I love the way they (the All Blacks) interchange (their team)," he said and specifically referred to the two scrumhalves Piri Weepu and Jimmy Cowan.
"We don't need to develop two teams. They will develop mental hardness come the playoffs in the World Cup," he said.