One round into the Rugby Championship and I remain as convinced as I was in June that the Springboks can beat the All Blacks and win the competition.
The All Blacks were outstanding against a Wallabies side with more bark than bite.
It was a really impressive New Zealand display. Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read are without comparison in the All Blacks in their respective positions. If either is not available the All Blacks pack loses 50 percent of its grunt, mongrel and presence.
Those who back up Retallick and especially Read are simply not in the class of the two All Blacks.
New Zealand remain favourites on performance and also on historical form. However, the Springboks are building a pack of forwards that can negate New Zealand’s strength up front. The Springboks have greater depth in numbers one to eight than the New Zealanders.
And what the South African series against England showed was that the Springboks can select two very different pack of forwards and still be equally effective.
Eben Etzebeth and Malcolm Marx, like Retallick and Read, are players without equal in the Springboks tight five. But those who back them up are very good players, who I’d select ahead of the reserves strength in the All Blacks squad.
The All Blacks are the pace setters in world rugby and they have been for the past decade. They’re a brilliant side, but (as I wrote in my June column) they have vulnerability in depth among the lock and loose-forward positions.
Few teams in the last decade have managed to consistently put the heat on the All Blacks pack. The Springboks of 2009 did it and won three successive Tests against the All Blacks. The Springboks couldn’t sustain the dominance and a year later the All Blacks restored order with a three-nil Test return.
Rassie Erasmus’s pack of 2018 is starting to mirror the presence of the magnificent 2009 Springboks - a team All Blacks legend Richie McCaw rated the best team he had faced in his 149-Test career.
The Springboks weren’t as fluent as the All Blacks in the first-round action, but it wasn’t the type of Test that was ever going to produce fluency. It was a brutal physical battle between two of the biggest packs in the game - and the Springboks were comfortable victors in the collisions and in the set piece.
The All Blacks a year ago battled with Argentina’s physicality at home and on the hour trailed the Pumas. They were also kept scoreless for a long period in the return Test in Buenos Aires.
Teams that pressure the All Blacks through their forwards and also stifle the quickness of their recycled ball, have managed to beat them. It sounds easy but it isn’t as easy to find a team with the pack capable of doing this to the All Blacks; equally the quality loose-forwards who specialise playing to the ball. The British and Irish Lions were an exception and so too the Springboks who lost by a point at Newlands in 2017.
Australia, in beating the All Blacks in Brisbane last year, also showed that if the physicality and intensity can be sustained for 80 minutes, a victory is indeed a possibility.
The Springboks were good in scoring six tries against the Pumas. They could have had a few more. Handre Pollard’s indifferent goalkicking also meant 13 points were lost. It was a game that could easily have reflected a 50-pointer for the Boks.
It will be tough in Mendoza but the Springboks will triumph. The key for them is to get the five league points and stay in touch with the All Blacks, who are likely to beat Australia with a bonus point in Auckland.
I expected more of Australia and felt they could win in Sydney. I got that one wrong with a capital W.
I can see the championship being decided in the final round at Loftus when the All Blacks visit South Africa.
And I can see the Springboks winning. I think they’ll run the All Blacks close in Wellington but I don’t know if the belief is quite there yet to win. The nature of that battle will instill in the Springboks the necessary to finally get a win against the old enemy.
There’s the small hurdle of Australia in Australia, but the Springboks in Durban did enough to keep the faith and reinforce the belief that we will finally see reward when the All Blacks come to town.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
Previous Mark Keohane columns on Sport24:
There will be no Lions miracle in Christchurch
For the sake of Boks, Lions must travel for final
Stormers top brass reward mediocrity
3 Super Rugby franchises the way forward for SA
Mbonambi the biggest winner after England series
Boks will win Rugby Championship
Rassie shows Boks can transform - and win
Judge Boks after England series!
Boks can pick 2 teams of equal strength
Why Kolisi is the best option to lead Boks
Louw’s Bok credentials soar after Newlands derby
Newlands derby is D-Day for Springbok contenders
Kolisi needs to up his game
'X-factor' RG Snyman deserves Bok call
There is enough quality for Boks to excel in 2018
Is SANZAAR waiting for the death of a player?
Bok series will be the end of Eddie Jones
Don't blame transformation for SA rugby woes
Stormers don't have halfbacks to challenge in Super Rugby
Bulls will be a different animal under Mitchell
Back Sharks to be SA's top team
Rassie's Boks will beat England's Eddie
Shocking results, not race behind Coetzee's axing
No tournament with Sunwolves can be 'best v best'!
How Rassie plans to re-align SA Rugby
Scrap the 30-Test ruling and make Cheslin Kolbe a Bok!
Blitzboks, not All Blacks, the talk of Cape Town
Kids don't win RWCs, get back Duane, Frans!
Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward
Paris glory won't erase Albany and Dublin gore
I'd happily take a 1-point win!
To vote against SA's bid would be an insult
Bosch will win Currie Cup final for Sharks
No current Bok would make 2007 team!
Dublin is D-Day for Boks
All Blacks' lack of desire gives Boks a sniff
Boks will beat Wallabies, but...
Bok changes won't spell panic
Boks will run All Blacks close
Win or lose in Perth, Boks have made progress!
Etzebeth is the right choice for Bok captain!
Kriel sets example others should follow
Combrinck to lead Lions to Super Rugby title
Jantjies the man to lead Lions to glory
Stormers WILL reach Super Rugby semis!
Stormers need to back youngster Willemse
Serfontein, Mostert the Boks standouts
Boks must extend Brendan 'Mr Fixit' Venter's role
Coetzee's Lions-laden Bok side can't lose!
Expect a different looking Bok starting XV!
Fear not, Boks will whitewash France 3-0!
Hey Allister, load the Boks with Lions!
The RWC 2019 gods have smiled on the Boks!
Unleash Curwin Bosch on the French!
YES, an overseas-based SA team would beat the Boks, but...
The next Springbok skipper has to be...
Super Rugby cull good for SA rugby
Clap, clap ... Venter's appointment should be applauded
South African rugby NEEDS to host RWC 2023
Why SA can't have 6 Super Rugby teams
Super 12 glory is now Super 18 gory
No winner is SARU's half-cocked overseas policy
Keeping Coetzee sadly no April Fools' joke
Mediocrity must fall!
Overseas based SA players are no traitors!
Sick Boks need more than a new doctor
Joost earned more than a minute's silence