Brian O’Driscoll ranks the world champion Springboks against the 2015 All Blacks side

Colin Newboult
Springboks celebrate winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup title.

Springboks celebrate winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup title.

Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has discussed where world champions South Africa stand in terms of the best teams in the sport’s history.

On Saturday, the Springboks became just the second side – after New Zealand in 2015 – to retain the Webb Ellis Cup.

That has naturally drawn comparisons with the great All Blacks outfit who won the title in both 2011 and ‘15.

However, O’Driscoll believes that in terms of pure quality, the New Zealanders easily take it thanks to the all-round ability of the team.

Importance of style

“For me, the best team has to play the best rugby and if you’re talking about that in my lifetime, the 2015 New Zealand World Cup-winning team (is the best),” he told the Off The Ball podcast.

“It would be a stretch to say they would wipe the floor with them (the 2023 Boks) but, from a rugby point of view and from an enjoyment point of view, it’s comfortably them.”

“I don’t care what they (South African fans) say, they’re going to be partisan and they’re going to want their own to be the best, I’m just saying in the scheme of ‘what’s the best team?’

“New Zealand won back-to-back as well – 2011 and 2015. The Springboks might have had to have beaten the top six teams en route to the title, which is an incredible feat, but I want to be able to look back and remember where there was great rugby, which really was played with an energy and an ability to link forwards and backs.

“I thought that All Black team in 2015 really was very, very special.”

There are a number of current Springboks who will go down as legends of the game, especially skipper Siya Kolisi.

Like Richie McCaw, he has been captain of two World Cup-winning sides and is revered for his actions both on and off the field.

Fewer genuine greats

However, O’Driscoll doesn’t feel that the 2023 Boks quite have the depth of talent of that 2015 All Blacks squad.

“If you look at that teamsheet, (Ma’a) Nonu and (Conrad) Smith in the centres, (Dan) Carter and (Aaron) Smith at half-back.

“McCaw, (Jerome) Kaino, (Kieran) Read, (Sam) Whitelock, (Brodie) Retallick in their pomp, and then a back three of Ben Smith, (Nehe) Milner-Skudder and (Julian) Savea; that was a proper, proper team of great rugby intellect and knowledge.

“I think they beat this South African team on their rugby capacity.”

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