‘All Blacks remain the best, even at their worst' – The Times

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Barnes, a former England and British & Irish Lion five-eighths, said South Africa had reduced themselves to a brilliant box-kicking game through halfback Faf de Klerk and a magnificent lineout effort from lock Lood de Jager. That was backed by superb defensive line speed to pressure the All Blacks yet had lost their third consecutive game.

 

"If performance can be written out of the sporting annals, solely on the criteria of results, surely the same applies in defeat as victory? South Africa beat the Lions. That is all we will remember of that forgettable series.

 

"Fine. By the same token, it is also impossible to dispute that New Zealand won the 100th game between these nations and nothing else counts.

 

"New Zealand won for a 60th time. Throw four draws into the equation and the Springboks have a 36 per cent win record against them – better by far than other nations but a salutary reminder of who rules the rugby world, even if South Africa are the world champions," he said.

 

Barnes suggested that while New Zealand had the Championship wrapped up, they would not want to lose the last Test on Saturday.

 

"The odds are on South Africa losing for a fourth consecutive occasion. Their famously limited game will look decidedly…limited, if New Zealand prevail," he said.

Barnes said New Zealand had under-estimated South Africa and not taken penalty points when they were on offer.

 

"[Ardie] Savea will have learnt his lessons. The absence of Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga was costly when it came to making the big decisions. New Zealand have won all five of their games in 2021 at a canter and still have scope for improvement.

 

"South Africa's self-restricted game plan leaves them little room to make match-winning changes.

 

"New Zealand have been scared. They will be sharper, more Test-match ready for part two. Here is a team playing with ambition against one alert to any such outbreak. It is some contrast.

 

"Expect the ever-changing All Blacks approach to improve a great deal. What else so South Africa have left?" he asked.

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