Video: Dan Carter's honest assessment of the Springboks
INTERVIEW: New Zealand legend Dan Carter has been named the best player and the best team he has ever played against throughout his incredible rugby career.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Carter pinpointed the former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson as the best player he ever came up across in nearly two decades of professional rugby.
During that time, Carter crossed paths with countless greats of the game, including the likes of Jonah Lomu, Brian O’Driscoll, Bryan Habana, Shane Williams and George Gregan, among numerous others.
However, the two-time World Cup-winning All Blacks centurion, who called time on his playing career early last year, highlighted Wilkinson as the best player he ever faced off against.
“There’s so many, it’s hard to pinpoint one [player],” Carter said, adding: “Probably because I held him in such high regard and had a huge amount of respect for him, it was Jonny Wilkinson.
“He was an absolute student of the game.”
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In terms of the best team he ever played against, Carter said that title belonged to the Springboks side that played between 2007 and 2009.
South Africa were crowned World Cup champions in 2007 and then achieved a rare clean sweep of the All Blacks two years later, beating the Kiwis in all three of their tests during the 2009 Tri-Nations.
That same year, the Springboks beat the British & Irish Lions during their tour of South Africa, and had earlier defeated the All Blacks in New Zealand in 2008.
All of that culminated in South Africa alternating with New Zealand at the top of the World Rugby rankings between 2007 and 2009, which led Carter to label the Springboks side of that era as the best he ever faced.
“They [Springboks] were quite dominant.
“Obviously, they won in 2007, the World Cup. 2009, there was a real Bulls style to their play back then,” Carter told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“They were dominating at Super Rugby back then as well, the Bulls back then, and South African rugby was such a force.
“It was brutal.
“Every time you played against the Boks, you knew that you were going to be sore until Wednesday or Thursday.
“It was like I had a target on me. Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies – they were all just big, athletic human beings and they were really dominant in that time.”
All up, Carter played 19 tests against the Springboks – four of which came between the 2007 World Cup and 2009 Tri-Nations – and managed 15 wins, with two of his four losses coming in the 2008 and 2009 home defeats to South Africa.
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Carter – somewhat unsurprisingly – added that former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was the best player he ever played alongside.
“His actions were some of the best leadership that I’ve ever seen. It would just inspire you to be right next to him and see it first-hand. It was like, ‘Right, okay, I’m going to do the same,” Carter said of McCaw on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
He also said the 2015 World Cup-winning All Blacks side was the best team he had ever been a part of due to the side’s groundbreaking achievements that year.
“My mind automatically goes back to the 2015 team. To create history, probably more so for me because it was such a special moment to finish my All Black career on such a high,” Carter said.
“Helping the team win back-to-back World Cups, first All Blacks team to win a World Cup outside of New Zealand, it was a pretty special and unique team in the fact that seven guys had played 100 test matches, or close to 100 test matches, all finished – some good mates of mine – on the same as well.”
By Alex McLeod, Rugbypass