Southern comfort

All Blacks still leading the way, says Fitzpatrick

Last Updated: 02/11/12 2:19pm

The Rugby Club sat down with a trio of southern hemisphere legends to discuss the state of the game with the top three teams in the world.

"Deans is a good coach and has not become a bad coach overnight - I think sometimes you have to realise the cattle he has got, I think he is doing a good job and I think he needs more support."

Michael Lynagh

Quotes of the week

New Zealand's Sean Fitzpatrick, Australia's Michael Lynagh and South Africa's John Smit gave their assessment of the big three as they head over to the northern hemisphere.

New Zealand kick-off their autumn tour against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday week which also includes Test matches against Italy, Wales and England.

The world champions were disappointed when their 16-match winning streak came to an end after that 18-18 draw against Australia, however Sean Fitzpatrick believes they will still be more than up for this tour.

"We are expecting four out of four wins," said the former All Black hooker.

"The continuation of the development of players has been good after the world cup - we have got that monkey off our back and things have moved on.

"It has been a really positive sign coming out of New Zealand, it started with the Super Rugby, in terms of the Chiefs and how they played. But the progression of the All Black team and how they have got better has been impressive.

"If you look back to the summer when Ireland toured there, the All Blacks beat them convincingly in the first Test, went to the second Test probably a bit arrogant, Ireland turned up but New Zealand learnt from that and put on an impressive score a week later."

New Zealand's ability to adapt so quickly is what impresses former South African skipper John Smit.

"They are the one team that adopts and adapts better than anyone else. If things are not going as well as they thought it would go then they take it on board and change during the game."

Australia

Australia coach Robbie Deans Deans will welcome back the likes of David Pocock and Stephen Moore from injury for their Tests against France, England, Italy and Six Nations champions Wales.

Deans has suffered a torrid time of late with poor results on the field, plenty of injuries and attacks from the likes of Quade Cooper who called the Wallaby set-up as toxic.

However former Wallaby fly-half, Michael Lynagh believes that Australia will benefit from all the injuries and that Deans is the right man for the job.

"I was pretty pleased with Australia in their last two performances," said Lynagh.

"I thought they would get beaten in Argentina - it is a tough assignment. Then against the All Blacks, even though it was played in Brisbane, I still expected the ABs to win.

"I think having all these injuries may be a bit of a godsend - I think we have used 39 players this year in the Rugby Championship, the last two games have shown us that these young guys are coming through who might normally not have had the chance.

"They have experienced playing Argentina in Argentina, the All Blacks at home and they know what level they have to inspire too.

"Deans is a good coach and has not become a bad coach overnight - I think sometimes you have to realise the cattle he has got, I think he is doing a good job and I think he needs more support."

Sean Fitzpatrick agrees and believes that making Nathan Sharpe captain will have a positive effect.

"I think the problem with Australia is that they need leadership - I think a lot of the problems they have had off the field is because the leadeship within the team has not been right. They now have a captain who is respected."

South Africa

When assessing South Africa's form, Smit - who captained the Springboks on 83 occasions - also pointed out a lack of leadership and said that new coach Heyneke Meyer has to not only has to settle into the job, but also to develop new leaders for the Springboks.

"I find myself defending Heyneke Meyer more and more these days. This year has been difficult and he has lost a core group of players - that is why I defend him.

"I was captain for a long time but underneath me there was Victor Matfield who could have captained SA as many times as I did. Then there was Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith. All of these guys were all doing different things for me. I often say that my job was the easiest because I had so many leaders around me," added Smit currently playing for Saracens.

"Heyneke is busy making a decision about who the next core group of leaders are - at the moment they are very reliant on a coach giving them one direct plan. When he gets it right they will be okay but when he gets it wrong, well they do not have the leadership at this stage to adapt.

"But it is the exciting too - the All Blacks are a settled team where as Australia and South Africa have had to go and look for youngsters. Meyer probably could have gone to a couple of old stalwarts to help him out in the first season but he has taken a brave call.

"He has exposed some of these young guys and they will get the opportunity to come over to the NH and play in conditions that are unknown to them. For me that is exciting."