Renowned English pundit Stuart Barnes was not overly impressed by what he saw from the Springboks in this month’s three-Test series against Wales.
The Boks won the series 2-1 after a 30-14 win in the decider in Cape Town. Wales had won the second Test 13-12 in Bloemfontein after South Africa edged the opener 32-29 in Pretoria.
In his latest column for The Times, the former England and British Lions flyhalf said the world champions are “definitely not the best team on the planet”.
Barnes wrote: “If the World Cup commenced today, France, the hosts, would flatten South Africa. The Springboks are enslaved to a system that shocked England in the 2019 final but struggled to put Wales away in the semi-final, as well as being well beaten in the pool stage by an All Black side that might very well have won the final had England not done South Africa’s work for them in the semi-final.
“The recent 2-1 series win against Wales should be the wake-up call that was delayed in 2021 as the British & Irish Lions played poor man’s Springbok rugby.”
According to Barnes, the Springboks have “the most potent pack in rugby” and “brilliant backs” but they’re not utilising them optimally.
“Against Wales, there was a deficiency at No 8, No 9 and No 10 – the most important decision-makers on the field.
“Jasper Wiese is one hell of a wrecking ball but there’s insufficient subtlety to his game. At scrumhalf, there remains a complete reliance on Faf de Klerk.
“[Elton Jantjies] had a career-killing first Test against Wales. He’s gifted but lacks the temperament to be a Test No 10. He has had more than his share of opportunities.”
Barnes also said current Bok flyhalf incumbent Handre Pollard had lost some of his former glory.
“Handre Pollard is first choice; the man who was third choice for Montpellier for much of the French season. He can carry – he’s a powerful flyhalf – but his game has faded into a world where his first thought is kick, usually high and across field, second is the same. Third choice – kick anywhere. The once brilliant flyhalf and the 2022 version are similar in name only.”
Barnes’ criticism follows last week’s comments by Isa Nacewa, a four-time European Cup champion with Leinster who also said France would get the better of the Springboks.
“The French are absolute beasts. Their forward pack, in my eyes, would absolutely trump South Africa right now,” Nacewa said on Sky Sport’s The Breakdown rugby show.
“They’ve got a physical presence and a sort of game nous that would trump South Africa with ease.”
South Africa and France will square off in Marseille on 12 November.
The world champions currently lie third on the World Rugby rankings, one position behind second-placed France.