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South Africa, Australia on their way back

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    10 Oct 2017     Getty Images

Reviewing the Championship for SuperSport, Gavin Rich said in spite of what the All Blacks achieved with their clean sweep of wins, they could easily have lost to Australia in Dunedin and South African in Cape Town which would have made for a much different competition.

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"Make no mistake though, the All Blacks do remain in a league of their own for now. Even though the Albany result had led many South Africans to believe the Boks had no chance at Newlands, the All Blacks always knew it would be a significant challenge.

"They weren't buttering their opponents up when they said that Albany was a much tougher game for them than the score suggested," he said.

The All Blacks had been 'brilliant' at conquering the travel factor for the last game of the Championship over the past five years.

"You could argue that in the past two seasons they at least haven't had the altitude factor to worry about. [Last season's game in Durban and the weekend game in Cape Town were both played at sea level.]

"But what they did have this time was an extra four hours at least [factoring in transit time] added to their long trip from Argentina via Brazil and Johannesburg.

"They also had to deal with a Bok team that was switched on for an entire 80 minutes and that just refused to take a backward step. Seldom has a Bok team been more relentless than Eben Etzebeth's men were, and let's not forget the All Blacks already had the Championship trophy under lock and key.



"For them to still prevail in a close game where for long periods they were pounded by a ferocious home onslaught was special," he said.

However, Newlands and Dunedin had offered a reminder the All Blacks were not invincible, he said.

"And when you strip the emotion from it, there is evidence that both the South Africans and Australians are improving. The Boks, in terms of having a plan and a team culture, are light years forward from where they were this time last year in the days after the mauling at the hands of the All Blacks at Kings Park," Rich said.

The Springboks now had a pack that could hurt any team but they were unlikely to beat the All Blacks with their backline at the moment. Jan Serfontein was their most dangerous and consistent back and it was likely that first five-eighths would be back as a starter 'sooner rather than later', he said.

It was also likely that centre Jesse Kriel may be moved to the wing to allow Lukhanyo Am to play at centre. He was the choice in the June internationals but was injured and hadn't played since.