A Springbok great says the All Blacks’ best chance of a surprise victory will come in the first of their two tests in South Africa.
But World Cup winner Joel Stransky expects South Africa’s forward power to dominate the All Blacks, and suggested it would probably lead to coach Ian Foster’s axing.
Stransky said captain Sam Cane’s struggles, the sacking of two assistants and a lack of self-belief would likely be causing problems within the New Zealand camp.
And in reference to New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson’s assessment of Foster’s future, Stransky said the All Black coach had only been given a “stay of execution”.
Offering just one small glimmer of hope, Stransky encouraged the All Blacks to learn from the way Wales tried to pick South Africa’s defence apart.
The first test will be played at Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit) which Stransky said was not too high above sea level.
“It’s the low veldt, altitude won’t be a factor – but no, I think the All Blacks will battle to win,” Stransky told Newstalk ZB’s D’Arcy Waldegrave.
“It’s a sellout stadium, people are travelling from everywhere to make a weekend of it, there will be a sensational atmosphere.
“Then they go to Ellis Park, the mecca of South African rugby, and that will be even tougher. It will be a long, hard two weeks.”
Stransky said the Springboks would be primed to overpower the All Blacks and predicted a victory by six to eight points in the first test, and a few more in the second.
“I do think they will raise their game and come back from the defeat against Ireland,” he said.
“But that is so hard to do against a Springbok side that dominates up front.”
“If the All Blacks are weak anywhere at the moment, it’s the ability to handle the confrontation. And we just deliver pain and suffering in the confrontational areas.
“That’s our game – mauling you out of the game, scrumming you into the penalty situation.
“It’s not particularly pretty, it’s not exactly positive, but it is effective and we are really, really good at it. We force the penalties and we force the points.
“I think the All Blacks need to play fast and expansively. The Welsh – who are not the best attacking team in the world – found ways through our defence and the All Blacks need to learn from that.
“They need to catch South Africa off guard when our defence is not organised and structured, avoid the big confrontational areas.
“They need to find space in the midfield and out wide … around the fringes and forwards they won’t find anything.
“But it’s easier said than done because you need a good solid foundation to do that, and we stop the opposition from getting that foundation.”
“If the captain is battling a little bit as a player, the other players can’t help but look around and think we could be better if someone else was there,” he said.
“He is coming back from a bad injury and trying to find that form again – but that’s where he finds himself. If you are playing against South Africa you want the best 15 on the field, and I’m not sure he’s quite there at the moment.
“It’s tough, the self-belief and momentum is a challenge, you’ve lost a couple of assistant coaches, the captain is maybe there, maybe not – with a bit of indecision.
“Ardie Savea was sensational in that (Irish) series but Ian Foster is under pressure because he’s got the talent and not made the best use of it. There’s not great attacking structure.”
Stransky believes a desire to build the next All Black generation had led to selection confusion, and he had no doubt that Foster was facing the chop.
“He has got two weeks left to try and right the ship and that’s not exactly a show of confidence – it’s a stay of execution,” he said.
“It’s hard to see our pack of forwards dominated – I think we will win them both, but close games are the nature of our rivalry.”