South African players are 'not fit enough'
REACTION: The majority of South African teams are not fit enough to play the high-tempo game that Super Rugby has become.
This is the opinion of Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, following his team's record 62-24 drubbing of the Bulls at the weekend.
There have been numerous 'indabas' since last year, in a desperate attempt to close the gulf that exists between world No.1 New Zealand and the Springboks.
This included fitness and skills indabas.
However, it appears South Africa's elite players are still some distance off the standards being set by their New Zealand counterparts.
In 10 encounters between New Zealand and South African franchises this year, the only SA team to win was the Stormers - a 34-26 triumph over the Chiefs at Newlands.
However, 22-41 (to the Hurricanes), 14-57 (to the Highlanders) and 24-57 (to the Crusaders) defeats on tour has against highlighted the chasm that still exists - with Bulls' 24-62 record home loss at the weekend further putting emphasis on the problem.
"We could see clearly that the Bulls struggled with our tempo [and] how quickly we could play," Robertson said, when asked what the difference was between New Zealand and SA teams.
"The week before with before, with the Cheetahs, they were probably the toughest team for us to play in regards to the speed of the game.
"They are fit and want to play an expansive game. They just didn't execute the last couple of weeks.
"For me, clearly, South African teams need to be fitter.
"Super Rugby is a fast game, a tempo game - it is a game with a high skill level. You make errors when you are fatigued and it showed when we got momentum and played with speed they [the Bulls] struggled to stay with us.
"That is pretty clear for everyone to see."
He said part of the Bulls' problem is also that they have lost so much experience to Europe in the last few years that they no longer have the senior players to transfer the skill required to younger players.
"There is not enough experience there in terms of Super Rugby caps," he said, adding: "There is also the uncertainty about what is happening with Super Rugby, that is certainly not helping."
Asked about his supposed 'no name' brand team, Robertson's sharp-witted quip was to the point: "You know them now."
He added that the Crusaders do have a lot of depth.
He said the three-match block against South African opposition (in which they beat the Stormers 57-24, the Cheetahs 48-21 and the Bulls 62-24) was a big focus for them.
"We are done with that period and we have a couple of New Zealand teams [Saturday, May 13 and Chiefs, Friday, May 19] coming up.
"You have to change your focus and your strategy slightly.
We will enjoy this [win], return home and refocus for next week."