All of the directories surrounding that directory have the same permissions and ownership. It was able to create subdirectories in that directory and write to them. I am thinking I might switch to the other sync method.
Thanks for your help and advice.
FWIW, I'm rsync'ing "opensuse-full-really-everything" and apart from that package being out-of-sync itself, it has been working fine. Maybe I'll try rsync'ing "opensuse-full-with-factory" and see what happens.