Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Boks are now doormats

Everyone is beating them this season.

The Springboks were always the true rugby test, a side with the history, know-how and skilled players who never gave in.

These days, they've become green and white doormats, a squad whose talent has been shredded by political selection systems, a lack of quality coaching, struggling administration and planning.

It's a disastrous sporting brew, with the glimmer of the Lions offering hope during Super Rugby which has not been translated into national combat.

There were crazy Springbok times with coach Peter de Villiers but some serious clout in his squad helped before the emotional Heyneke Meyer gathered and kept his men ticking over with strong success against all but the All Blacks.

There were a number of close contests where the All Blacks were taken to their limits yet on all but one occasion managed to outlast Meyer's men.

However, everyone is beating Allister Coetzee's squad in his first year at the helm: Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.

All that mystique, all those stories both fabled and true about the Springbok strengths are being eroded.

All the advantages lie with the Boks until you compare the teams.

They are at home eating their own braii and dossing down in their own beds while the All Blacks were on the road to Argentina and then had three flights in a 24-hour roster to get to their hotel in Durban. Forecasts for the test suggest rain, which is seen as another boost for the Boks.

But it's all talk about damage limitation, ways to restrict the All Blacks and methods to cut down the victory margin. Even that great and proud Springbok midfielder Jean de Villiers is talking about another All Black march to victory.

It's as inevitable as Aaron Smith ... you know the rest.

There's some sting in the Boks where they have world class locks Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jaager, robust loosie Francois Louw, some random sting from captain Adriaan Strauss and an occasional backline hiss but not much more.

They are cheddar which the All Blacks should turn into Swiss cheese, it's only a question of how long the process takes.

When the backs get the ball, Morne Steyn is so far back, Brodie Retallick needs to change his contact lenses to discover him, while the Bok halfback has to alter his passing protractor by about 90 degrees. That allows the All Blacks to flood across the advantage line as Steyne resorts to his A, B and C tactical kicking plans.

All the All Black ideas are a metre sharper than their rivals. They know what they are doing because they have trained so effectively, while the Boks are catching the ball, then thinking what they should do.

Their instincts are to hug possession rather than let it free. That's fine, and when it's done well, as England and Argentina have shown, it becomes a destructively accurate way of breaking down the All Black resistance.

The Boks have not mastered that level of precision and when they spill possession or kick it away recklessly, they become vulnerable.

Maybe they will find the magic elixir early on Sunday to stop the All Blacks.

Very few expected the 18-18 deadlock against the Wallabies in 2012 which halted the All Blacks bid for a record winning sequence or another impasse against the Wallabies in 2014.

If the All Blacks go "bone deep" in their preparation, they will equal the world record in what has been a year of continued acceleration from the men in black.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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