Bakkies: Kiwi teams a class apart
Cape Town - Former Springbok lock Bakkies Botha believes the New Zealand teams are a class apart from their overseas counterparts in Super Rugby.
The tournament structure has copped flak since it became an 18-team event in 2016.
There are some major mismatches as well as criticism of a conference system which allows home advantage in the playoffs to some teams despite them having worse records than others.
A Kiwi team (the Hurricanes) nevertheless still won the competition last year and Botha - who played 85 Tests between 2002 and 2014 - fears it may again be the case in 2017.
“I truly believe that the New Zealand sides are well ahead of the other teams in the Super Rugby competition. While it’s still early days in the lengthy tournament, the intensity with which the New Zealanders play and their ball-handling skills is mind-blowing. The Hurricanes, in particular, are a phenomenal side from one to 15 and have shown that they are not the current title-holders for nothing,” Botha told Sport24 in an exclusive interview.
The intensity of the Kiwi derbies is different to when two South African teams tackle each other, Botha believes.
“The New Zealand sides have underlined their class, and the reality is that there is a big difference between South African and New Zealand derbies in terms of intensity. New Zealand’s style of play and tempo is developed from a young age. I believe we can get there as a rugby-playing nation and employ that type of rugby over time, but it needs to be part of our players’ upbringing. It’s neither something you can coach overnight nor something you will get right after one or two seasons.
“I’m not saying South African teams aren’t competitive - five of our six local franchises claimed victories in round two - but the bottom line is that the New Zealand teams are on another level altogether. They read the game so much better than some of the South African teams. The New Zealanders generally do the right stuff at the right times and they really think on their feet,” Botha concluded.
READ: Bakkies Botha chats to Sport24