CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Sept 17 South Africa coach Allister Coetzee could only cast a wistful eye at his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen on Saturday after a striking demonstration of the way their respective teams have developed since last year's World Cup.
Coetzee's side were beaten 41-13 by the All Blacks in Christchurch as the world champions ran in four tries in 20 second-half minutes to all but clinch the Rugby Championship title.
Both teams lost several veteran players after New Zealand lifted the World Cup in England, with Coetzee also having to make do without players like Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie, who are battling long-term injuries.
Yet while the Springboks have struggled -- Saturday's loss was their fourth out of seven games this season -- Hansen has virtually not lost a step since six veteran All Blacks ended their international careers last October.
He is now reaping the rewards of having spent the previous four years bringing in new faces in preparation for the post-World Cup period.
"If you look at how seamlessly (captain) Kieran Read has taken to his role, the senior core of the team is still functioning well, and also the experience they've got," Coetzee told reporters in Christchurch.
"Full credit to New Zealand, their systems are working well. The transition from World Cup-winning team to the next has been very, very good, unlike in our case."
One of Coetzee's biggest problems is in his inside backs, with Pollard (knee injury) and Lambie (concussion) both capable of playing flyhalf.
Their injuries, however, have left Coetzee asking flyhalf Elton Jantjies to steer the team around the field and the Lions flyhalf has found it difficult to translate his sensational Super Rugby form with the Lions into the test arena.
Both Jantjies and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk are also inexperienced, having accumulated 16 caps between them.
In contrast, Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett are in their fifth season in the All Blacks and have almost 100 caps between them.
Five players on Coetzee's bench on Saturday had less than five caps each, whereas the All Blacks had players like Wyatt Crockett (52) and Charlie Faumuina (40) to add some impetus in the second half.
"Maybe some players are not ready for this level yet," Coetzee said. "We scored a great try and just after the kick-off we let New Zealand in.
"Those are soft moments. They capitalised on that. That's the difference between the two teams at this point in time.
"They know when to play, where to play, without making mistakes." (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Chadband)