Heyneke Meyer rated the current New Zealand side as probably the best team in the history of the game but South Africa’s coach remained confident his men could take them down in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.
“Just look at their record the last four years. Usually after the World Cup there’s a decline in performance but they just got better, which just doesn’t happen in world rugby,” Meyer told reporters on Wednesday after naming an unchanged team for the Twickenham clash.
“We as a team know that this must be our best performance ever if we want to beat them because they are the best team that’s ever played the game.
“For South Africa it’s probably the biggest test ever, playing All Blacks at their best.”
The stats tend to back Meyer’s conclusion. Since winning the World Cup in 2011 the All Blacks have played 52 matches, losing three, drawing two and winning 47 for a win percentage of over 90 percent — a sustained period of dominance far beyond that of any other national team.
Throw in the seven in a row they won in the 2011 tournament and that percentage goes even higher.
“It must be our best performance ever to beat them but you have to believe you can beat them,” Meyer said.
“We beat them in 2014 (in Johannesburg) and been very close a number of times.
“We’ve had so many chances against them. We’ve had two or three five metre scrums we didn’t convert, five metre drives we didn’t convert near the end when you should be scoring points.
“What they do well is that they don’t buckle under pressure and come through in last five minutes.
“But I’m very happy with our bench where you need a strong last 15 minutes.”
Meyer dismissed the suggestion that the biggest rivalry in the sport was a simple competition between the brawn of South Africa and the creativity of the All Blacks.
“People say there’s a contrast but I don’t think so, it’s just execution,” he said.
“We’ve scored a lot of tries against them. We want to move the ball around — but having said that, knockout games are a bit different with the pressure.
“Scoring tries isn’t the problem, it’s just backing our defence.”