Any rugby union purist will tell you rugby begins up front, and forwards provide the backbone for defense and attack.
In terms of this, our dearly departed South African rugby guru and a legend of the game, Doc Craven has made my day and while re-reading his analysis of the 1924 Springboks vs. All Blacks, my discontent over claims of New Zealand domination of the game are strengthened and refreshed.
Craven explains, "International rugby has never witnessed the total domination of one pack of forwards over another as the Springboks over the All Blacks." (1924)
That highlights and frames two things perfectly for me. Forward rugby was where rugby was at, and secondly, South Africa were the undisputed world leaders at that style of play.
Fast-forward to successive clashes between the Boks and AB's in 1960, 1965, 1970, and 1976 and with the exception of a tight 6-3 loss in Wellington (1965) and 13-0 Dunedin (1965), the Springboks were totally outplaying the New Zealanders.
Furthermore, but for Clive Norling and his shocking late penalty gift 25-22 series clincher, the 1981 Springboks were far stronger than their flour-bomb-protester bolstered opposition.
The 1981's All Blacks didn't deserve to be on the same page as their Bok counterparts:
New Zealand: Alan Hewson, Stuart Wilson, Lachlan Cameron, Steven Pokere, Bernie Fraser, Doug Rollerson, Dave Loveridge (replaced by Mark Donaldson), Murray Mexted, Frank Shelford, Gary Whetton, Andy Haden, Geoff Old, John Ashworth, Andy Dalton (captain), Gary Knight.
South Africa: Gysie Pienaar (replaced by Johan Heunis), Ray Mordt, Danie Gerber, Willie du Plessis (replaced by Colin Beck), Gerrie Germishuys, Naas Botha, Divan Serfontein, Wynand Claassen (captain), Burger Geldenhuys, Louis Moolman, Hennie Bekker, Rob Louw, Flippie van der Merwe, Robert Cockrell, Ockie Oosthuizen.
These weren't men, these Springboks were mountains: Wynand Claasen, Burger Geldenhys, Louis Moolman, Hennie Bekker, Rob Louw? Monsters, not mere mortals, and if you watch the replay you'll see the mismatch
But alas, their talents were wasted, and not for another 12 years would these sides meet and then a really rusty Springbok side was "whipped" 27-24 by the "dominant" AB's, ha, ha...
Currently my 50-year analysis puts the Springboks and the All Blacks back to all square (a bitter pill for Bok fans) and if you factor in ALL the hiccups that have hamstrung the South Africans in-between... I'll go with the men in green.
It's taken a decade or two to get back to their past form, but their graph shows good potential for a constant toweling of New Zealand like in the days of Doc Craven. Bring on 2009!