Were the Boks the best team in 2021

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Dec 24, 2021, 22:42

The RugbyPass Round Table writers answer the big questions at the end of 2021, looking back at the year that was in context to what lays ahead. Alex McLeod (AM), Tom Vinicombe (TV), Nick Turnbull (NT), Mike Rehu (MR), Ben Smith (BS), Jordan King (JK), Jack O’Rourke (JO) and Finn Morton (FM) weigh in on a range of topics on the international game and more in this end-of-2021 review. 


After sitting out the entire 2020 season, the Springboks returned to rugby as World Rugby’s number one ranked team.

They had limited preparation for the Lions series, getting in one clash against Georgia and one more warm-up under the guise of South Africa ‘A’. They opened the Lions series with a loss before fighting back from 1-nil down to win the series 2-1.

After beating Argentina twice at home, they headed down under to complete the rest of the Rugby Championship but their title hopes unravelled with back-to-back losses to the Wallabies before a third loss to the All Blacks. During this stretch, they gave up the number one ranking briefly.

In the final round, they were able to arrest their losing streak by turning the tables on New Zealand to finish with a win. Heading to Europe they won their first two games against Wales and Scotland before a final loss to England at Twickenham.

They finished the season still holding World Rugby’s number one ranking, but were they the best team?

Were the Springboks the world’s best team in 2021? 

NT: No, but they were one of the better sides. The losses to England and Australia would not make me comfortable in agreeing to that question.

I think they were a very good side and would be in the mix with New Zealand. I’d probably have to call it a dead-heat between New Zealand and South Africadespite the World Rugby Rankings.

FM: While the Springboks may have won the war against the Lions, they largely lost the battle against some of the best nations in the rugby world.

Two losses to Australia, and one to both New Zealand and England suggest that they aren’t still the world’s best team. In fact, not only were they not the best team this year, but you could mount an argument for why they weren’t even in the top five, with Ireland and France also impressing last month.

AM: No. After missing an entire year of test rugby in 2020, losses to the All Blacks, Wallabies and England have further blemished South Africa’s reign as world champions this year.

Instead, if you ignore the World Rugby rankings (which are a bit of a farce anyway), the team that continues to build and grow and looks the most threatening less than two years out from the next World Cup is France.

TV: Truth be told, there wasn’t any one team who really shone out consistently throughout the season. The All Blacks may have been the best throughout the early part of the year and easily topped the Rugby Championship ladder but struggled in the Northern Hemisphere.

It would be hard to award the ‘title’ of world’s best to the Springboks either, given their run of losses against Australia and New Zealand while Six Nationschampions Wales didn’t exactly light the world on fire, even when they were winning throughout February and March.

JO: The Boks emerged from their self-imposed isolation in 2021 expecting that they would still be a world champion team. Overall they have had a very good season, but they have burned through a lot of goodwill from their World Cup win, and it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their place at the top.

MR: In a word no. They are a great squad that will be in any mix when there’s a knock out competition like the RWC but they have frailities that the Wallabies and others exposed effectively.

BS: They ended the year with World Rugby’s number one tag but they did not put in a convincing season, losing five tests and finishing with a win rate marginally above 60 per cent.

Just like the 2019 Rugby World Cup will always be South Africa’s, the 2021 Rugby Championship title will forever read New Zealand and the Springboks will always be third place finishers.

It’s all about titles and wins, which can never be removed. The number one ranking is one of the only things you can never keep forever and inevitably will be lost.

The Springboks only major silverware this year was the Lions series win, which was a struggle. After losing the first test they had to fight back to keep the series alive and they were minutes away from a drawn series before an aerial blunder gave them a chance to win the series.

In their only annual tournament, The Rugby Championship, they finished third, conceding the Nelson Mandela Plate to Australia while New Zealand retained the Freedom Cup and took home the Rugby Championship title. Having last won a truncated version of the tournament, they still haven’t won a full length version of it.

If you are the best team in the world, you win silverware, particularly the major tournaments you compete in. Only the blind believers in South Africa would put the 60 per cent Boks at the top of the rugby tree in 2021 as the world’s best team.

JK: You’re as good as your last game for me, so no. Couple that with their losses to Australia and New Zealand, and I feel I have a compelling case for my answer. The scariest team in world rugby as of every country’s final game is France.


Dec 24, 2021, 23:36

France is definitely a scary team and will be a hand full come 2023. We will have to see when we play again, but if we don’t get more balanced on attack and defence to combine with our forward pack, teams like France, Eng etc will beat us. They playing a well balanced Rugby and know our weaknesses well by now. Let us see if Erasmus can delegate and make wise decisions to give us a fighting chance at WC.

Dec 25, 2021, 01:32

Yes we were the best side in 2021 evidenced by our ranking

Dec 25, 2021, 02:06

France produced the performance of the season against New Zealand. However, they have not been like that in all their games. Most teams are struggling with consistency given the depth of teams that are competitive. 

South Africa needs to keep improving the backline attack. It looked good in some games from mid-season onwards, but AM needs to be get involved more- as do the wingers

Dec 25, 2021, 03:09

The experts you believe Dave, chaps who picked Dud Toit as the POY and tell us Dud Allende was great when he never made a break in 44 runs…..those guys who you respect tell us we weren’t the best team. End of…

The fact is if we didn’t get crucial penalties because of scrumming dominance we would be 5/8. Take away our scrum and we aren’t a top  5 team.

Dec 25, 2021, 06:35

Mozart

Ho many times have you ignored expert opinion and how many times that you claim the experts were fools and your opinion is the only valid one that applies?   

You seems to have he known agenda - you only believe experts if they tie in ith what you want to believe.     Now lets face facts - the Springboks should have done miles better, but in some cases there are issues to be borne in mind.   For instance  - there was only of the  tests played at home - the rest were all away tests.  There were some key injuries that did not help either players like Vermeulen, Du Toit , Kolbe and Snyman are difficult to replace,   Players like Mostert and  Le Roux had years they would like to forget about  their performances this year,                

Dec 25, 2021, 06:35

Mozart

Ho many times have you ignored expert opinion and how many times that you claim the experts were fools and your opinion is the only valid one that applies?   

You seems to have he known agenda - you only believe experts if they tie in ith what you want to believe.     Now lets face facts - the Springboks should have done miles better, but in some cases there are issues to be borne in mind.   For instance  - there was only of the  tests played at home - the rest were all away tests.  There were some key injuries that did not help either players like Vermeulen, Du Toit , Kolbe and Snyman are difficult to replace,   Players like Mostert and  Le Roux had years they would like to forget about  their performances this year,    Accept for one test the rest were won or lost by razor-thin margins which indicates that the team was competitive.                    

Dec 25, 2021, 06:52

There were 7 games that could have gone either way. The first and third Lions tests, both AB tests, the first Oz test, the Welsh test and the Pom test. We won 3 of those games and lost 4. On that basis maybe we could have done a bit better.

We played 6 games at home….2 neutral games, the AB tests in Oz….and 5 games away. On that basis we were fortunate.

If we exclude the Bargies, Georgia and Scotland…..we won 4 and lost 5 against top teams.

Slice the poloni any way you like 8/5 is a fair reflection of a mediocre year.

Dec 25, 2021, 09:50

"There were 7 games that could have gone either way. The first and third Lions tests, both AB tests, the first Oz test, the Welsh test and the Pom test. We won 3 of those games and lost 4. On that basis maybe we could have done a bit better."

Only 2 were at home and the home matches were at the new CT stadium were we never played before....AND without our fans...the 2 matches against the Allblacks in QuuNZland were not neutral...and Scotland at home is a top side...go ask the Aussies...and NZ...


When it comes to the Bokke under Rassie you can't be fair, so stop "trying" please.:D

Dec 25, 2021, 17:28

Hahaha….the Boks playing at Green Point isn’t playing at home, but the ABs playing in Oz are playing at home. Draad you are as bent as a man with Peyronie’s disease. 

Dec 25, 2021, 20:45

You're the bent one...you're twisting what I said to suit your agenda...if you can't accept the context I've provided, you're lying to yourself...keep digging...

Dec 25, 2021, 22:02

How twisting …please explain.

Dec 26, 2021, 10:21

"Hahaha….the Boks playing at Green Point isn’t playing at home, but the ABs playing in Oz are playing at home. Draad you are as bent as a man with Peyronie’s disease. "

I never said that....I said we are unfamiliar with the venue and the stadium was empty.


Which neutral venue would you rather face NZ....Windhoek or some stadium in QueeNZland?  You are correct with your facts, but there are more context to it...as there were wrt the bubble...it seems that you're focusing on the negatives only...glass half emty...I try to rather look for the positives to put the negatives in some context.

Dec 26, 2021, 14:26

DA beat more than enough defenders and we all know that he made a wonderful clean break or two on the EOYT

So as per usual useless ESPN are as inaccurate as ever

DA was brilliant on that tour cementing himself as the best 12 in the game by some distance

Given the names involved in selecting world player of the year, there can be no disputing their credentials to make the calls

So saying calls are made on sentimental or popularity grounds is fucking insulting

Dec 26, 2021, 17:55

No ESPN weren’t wrong….I measured  Dud vs Henshaw and Kerevi, the only two worthy opponents he faced. Predictably Tuilagi Dud’s direct opponent scored in the Pom test, but was gone quickly. Havili and the rest are nothing burgers

So against Henshaw and Kerevi Dud ran the ball 44 times and never made 1 clean break. That has to be a Guinness world record.

Dec 26, 2021, 19:47

Well neither Henshaw nor Kerevi got past DA and DA was better than Henshaw in the Lions series, DA was also by far the best 12 during the EOYT

Facts

Dec 26, 2021, 21:10

44 runs…..zero clean breaks……toothless.

Dec 26, 2021, 21:47

How many defenders beaten and how many metres gained - clean breaks count for nothing if he beats defenders

Dec 26, 2021, 23:01

Absolutely wrong Dave…..defenders beaten count for nothing if you make no clean breaks.

Defenders beaten ….lead to clean breaks……lead to tries.

If you just have defenders beaten, as is soften the case with Dud, and no clean breaks, there is no penetration. With Dud it’s almost always static tractoring , continuing to crawl forward, eventually put down with no pass, no offload, no metres gained….no clean break.

Dec 26, 2021, 23:12

Nonsense defenders beaten are distinguished from clean breaks - and neither always lead to tries

Beating a defender is results in penetration as is metres gained in traffic which is what DA is the best in the game at

Significant as the modern game is mostly played in traffic

It’s why DA is the best 12 in the game

Dec 26, 2021, 23:31

Okay so you are talking nonsense, but let’s accept your choice  of defenders beaten as the measure of a centre.

So playing head on head against Kerevi and Henshaw, Dud beats 4 defenders in 44 runs, Henshaw beats 5 defenders in 19 runs. Kerevi beats 11 defenders in 24 runs.

So by your own measure he isn’t even half as effective in beating defenders as Henshaw or shockingly a quarter as effective as Kerevi. Extrapolating if Kerevi had 44 runs he would have beaten 20 defenders, five times more than Dud beat.

And you think Dud Allende is better than Jean and the best centre in the world. Now that’s funny…are you laughing Dave?

Dec 27, 2021, 00:05

No Moz a player is not measured by the stats you read on ESPN, we’ve done this to death.

Kerevi was the best 12 in the RC

DA was the best 12 in the Lions series as he was on the EOYT

Based on what we saw and not on the stats

At the end of the Lions series DA was selected as the 12 of the series as Kerevi was for the RC and DA again was for the EOYT

He does not get selected because he is shit as you ignorantly maintain - he gets selected by a respected bunch of rugby people who see what I see

12 is one of the most important positions in a team, you don’t win WC’s, RC’s, a Lions series and end the past 2 years as the number 1 side in the game with a shit inside centre

You need to wake up to this very fact, if nothing else

Dec 27, 2021, 02:48

Actually Henshaw was the best centre in the Lions series. Together Henshaw and Kerevi as Dud’s opponents had 43 runs to Dud’s 44, the same to all intents and purposes.

But together they beat 16 defenders to Dud’s 4. Together they made 5 clean breaks to Dud’s zero 

These are clear cut numbers that point out a deficiency in our back play the experts just don’t want to see. We score tries from turnover ball ….often because Am is pretty slick in the transitions. We get almost no tries from or via Dud. He fulfills a certain physical function, occasionally makes a good turnover…is reliable on the crash ball.

That’s not enough…and it’s the primary reason we are struggling against lesser teams even though we have a  surfeit of ball.

The’ experts’ simply don’t see very much, can’t project……hell they even totally missed Dud’s defensive lapse which cost us the Pom match. Numbers don’t tell you everything but when the experts are blinkered numbers serve an important function.


Dec 27, 2021, 14:51

No Henshaw was not the best by any stretch, DA was

Saying the experts don’t see much is hypocrisy of the highest level - its classically what you are

You don’t win WC, RC and being number 1 with a crap 12 - simply won’t happen

You stop DA you stop the Boks

Greenwood knows far more than you will ever know - played at the highest level in the same position and is a very astute rugby man

Jan 17, 2022, 23:53

No team has ever been #1 to the fans of the game irrespective of the team or the sport.

We all wish our teams would be #1 at all times but that is wishful thinking at best.

The Springboks delivered a good strong game in the final at the WC and won the WC.

That to me is more important than being #1 year in and year out.

With the quality of the "refs" handling test matches all ratings are off the table to me.

The trophies in the display cupboard are what tells the story finish and klaar.

Everything else is subject to manipulation and bluster.

Bokke.

Jan 18, 2022, 07:32

Well said AJH, fully agree

Jan 18, 2022, 13:48

Disagree 100%

It’s more important being the best side in the world than winning one competition played every 4 years

The true measure of a side is its ranking

Jan 18, 2022, 14:53

"Disagree 100%

It’s more important being the best side in the world than winning one competition played every 4 years"

That basically means you are saying that the All Blacks have always been the best side in world rugby since re-admission 

The All Blacks are absolutely fantastic in between world cups..... but at the World cup... not so much

Jan 18, 2022, 16:33

A bit of both...to be ranked no1 is great, but then you have to win the WC every once in a while.

Jan 18, 2022, 20:52

Well yes DA the AB’s have been the best for ages but the Boks are currently

Of course winning the WC is huge but being ranked number 1 is the real measure

I’d rather see us being the number 1 side in the world than winning a WC

It’s just testament to how good our current side and coach is that we have both

Jan 19, 2022, 01:45

Our ranking  is based on 2019 results….based on 2021 results we might be third. If the ranking is going to be meaningful it needs to be a based on a 365 day clock. 

Since re-entry we have won the most WCs…..more succesful than NZ. It doesn’t make us the best team. The RC is the better head to head measure where they comfortably outrank us. 

Jan 19, 2022, 01:54

We have been the best side for 90% of the time since winning the WC and rightly so

Just like we are definitely the best side in the game right now backed up by the official rankings

The only blemish was when Rassie was not physically present

A side definitely needs their coach present - had Rassie been present we would not have lost twice to Oz and not lost to England

Jan 19, 2022, 04:21

Our ranking  is based on 2019 results….based on 2021 results we might be third. If the ranking is going to be meaningful it needs to be a based on a 365 day clock. 

Since re-entry we have won the most WCs…..more successful  than NZ. It doesn’t make us the best team. The RC is the better head to head measure where they comfortably outrank us. 

Jan 19, 2022, 06:51

England, Australia  and Ireland would struggle to beat us in South Africa...New Zealand will get close.

Jan 19, 2022, 07:48

Fantastic form throughout the years is a great yardstick for measuring who the best side is, but not being able to lift the world cup would also be a huge factor towards that equation.

Imagine us almost constantly being ranked number one in the world, and being the number one favourite going in to every world cup that we have played in......and then never won even one of those world cups..... it would certainly taint the "best in the world" statement.

I agree with Db, a world cup win here and there is imperative to even be considered to be the best in the world, with the odd number one team ranking in between as well.

Jan 19, 2022, 07:49

"I’d rather see us being the number 1 side in the world than winning a WC"

I wonder how many NZ supporters would agree with this statement, :D

Jan 19, 2022, 17:15

Since the 2011 WC the head to head record is NZ 13 won/Boks 3 won. We have to do better if we want to be in the debate.

Jan 19, 2022, 18:35

2 wins and a draw in Rassie's 3 years. We are doing considerably better vs NZ under Rassie...I think the aggregate points difference between the Bokke and Allblacks is just more than 10...12 I think, 10 of which came from our first match in the RWC...all the other matches had points differences of 3 or less. Must be our best effort against them over a period of 3 years since 92.

Jan 19, 2022, 19:13

2 wins, 3 losses and a draw…..vs PDV….5 wins/6 losses. PdV has the best record against NZ.

Jan 19, 2022, 19:48

Snôrre wasn't half as bad is he looked when he opened his mputh on TV...and don't give me that BS  of the players coaching themselves...somehow Snôrre and his team did something special...yes, he inherited a great team, but so have others before and after him....NZ had to have the rules changed vith the ELVs to curb us...and they had to get Carter playing for the ABs again.:devil:

Jan 19, 2022, 19:49

Funny how life turns out, PDV is now a politician as Mayoral Candidate for Good Party, in Drackenstein municipality.

Jan 19, 2022, 19:59

He's very popular in the area, hailing from Klapmuts...different people have different priorities...he'll definitely do a better job than many a politician,  but taking the Paarl municipality from the DA at this stage would be much harder than beating the Allblacks 3 in a row in one year.

Jan 19, 2022, 20:09

Very true Draad

Jan 19, 2022, 22:35

No our current ranking is based on our 2021 results obviously

Jan 20, 2022, 00:42

Dave once again I have to educate you…..the Bok WC results which are given a double score under the system are still in the calculator.  Read this:

Current calculation method

’All IRB member countries have been given a rating that is in the range of 0 to 100 with the top side in the world achieving a rating of about 90 points. The actual point system is calculated using a 'Points Exchange' system, in which sides receive points from each other based upon the match result. Whatever one side gains, the other loses. The exchanges are based on the match result, the ranking of each team, and the margin of victory. There is also an allowance for home advantage. As the system aims to depict current team strengths, past successes or losses will fade and be superseded by more recent results. Thus, it is thought that it will produce an accurate picture depicting the actual current strength and thus rank of the nations.[2] The rankings are responsive to results and it is possible to climb from the to the top from the bottom (and vice-versa) in less than 20 matches. As all matches are worth a total of 0 points (as whatever one side gains, the other loses) there is no particular advantage to playing more matches. Under the system, a country has a certain rating, which stays the same until they play again.’

…….

We are less than 20 matches from the WC final….those results are still helping our rating. I agree it should be a more current rating, but it isn’t

Jan 20, 2022, 01:13

The way you spin it it’s as if the results of 2021 are of no consequence

Playing the Lions was big no doubt and the Kiwi’s losing 3 will have kept us at 1 after we dropped to 2 at one point

It was a very disruptive year for the Boks given the virus and the absence of their coach for 5 games

Hardly ideal but we managed to keep the number 1 spot which is a credit to the side given the circumstances and the absence of 5 key players in Kolbe, Faf, Malherbe, RG and PSDT

Jan 20, 2022, 01:30

No they are of consequence, but they saw us drop by about 3 rating points. The ABs by contrast gained rating points. The fact that we finished ahead of them was because we started at a higher level. Based purely on 2021 results they would have been on top.

9/3 (I have excluded the Fiji/Tongan games) trumps 8/5….even if the Lions were stronger opposition. We get no benefit for a series win…just one test benefit by winning 2 and losing 1. while the ABs beat Oz 3 times and we lost to them twice.

Clearly using the IRB calculator on just 2021 results NZ would have won.

Jan 20, 2022, 13:34

Our three loses were away....who would have beaten us at home with our water boy. 

Jan 20, 2022, 18:19

The system doesn’t penalize you as much for away losses….all those  variations are supposedly adjusted in the formula. Although try as I might I can’t find the exact algorithm, just the principles. Irritating, they seem unwilling to reveal precise details, it should be transparent. This is more secure than the Coke formula!

Jan 24, 2022, 19:57

Do you have the KFC formula Moz?

Jan 24, 2022, 21:03

Nope….but I do own some Yum Brands and Yum China…a great franchise which owns KFC.

 
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