Superior NZ conditioning takes toll of South Africans

Getty Images     15 Apr 2014     Getty Images writer Gavin Rich made the point after another second half points scoring blitz at altitude by a New Zealand team, the Crusaders against the Cheetahs, was following the earlier second half romps by the Chiefs to secure draws against the Bulls and Cheetahs.

Rich said the ability of New Zealand sides proved their conditioning was superior to that of South African teams, a point that was made by Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer last year.

The Cheetahs had attempted to play the wider game against the Crusaders but ran out of puff by the 60th minute.

"You want to know why South African teams don't overnight change their playing style away from forward domination to the wider game played by the Kiwis?

"Well the reason was surely provided in Bloemfontein in this past weekend, as it was the week before," he said.

Rich pointed to the way the All Blacks had stormed to a win in last year's classic Rugby Championship finale at Ellis Park as another example, while the same had occurred a year earlier at Soccer City.

"When former All Black coach John Mitchell was coaching the Lions he got them to play a structured wide game and it won them a Currie Cup, but he did so by putting them through a conditioning programme that was considered so tough that it featured as one of the sparks for the events that eventually saw him part ways with that union."

However, Mitchell's legacy was the fact the Lions are still regarded as the fittest of South African teams, with the Sharks starting to push them.

Rich said it would be interesting to see how the Sharks go when on tour and playing a team like the Chiefs.

"As the Sharks have a significant number of Springboks, current national coach Heyneke Meyer will be watching with interest to see if one of his predecessors' [Jake White] hard work on the conditioning of the players has paid off.

"Of course the Sharks aren't showing any signs of wanting to play it the New Zealand way at present, and are employing the suffocate and subdue before penetrating tactics that Meyer's team does when they aren't playing a Championship decider, so that will help," he said.