RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About South Africa
Rugby

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About South Africa

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About South Africa

The Springboks are struggling. They’ve had a tough Rugby Championship, losing to Argentina and dropping to the bottom of the table. They’ve an ageing team with a long injury list and they’ve faced draining political issues at home. It will take good management, tenacity, and more than a little luck for the Boks to win their third Webb-Ellis trophy.

1.  Rugby Championship Woes

The Springboks aren’t used to losing to Argentina. They certainly aren’t used to coming last in the Rugby Championship. Neither of these have happened since Argentina came on board in 2012. Both happened in 2015, though. It was a poor effort from South Africa in going down to Los Pumas. They were flattered by the 37-25 scoreline.

It’s been a tough year for the Boks. It might well be made worse by the fact they have taken just one tuneup match prior to the tournament – against Argentina.

2.  Old Boys Club?

To hear it said in various Internet forums, the average age of the South African squad is about 4200. It’s actually 28.5, which is reasonable. It is pulled down by a few very young players like Jessie Kriel and Lood de Jager. It is pretty clear that they’ve got some old hands, though. Victor Matfield is is the oldest at 38. The next oldest Jean de Villiers, who, along with Schalk Brits, is 34. In total, there are 14 players over 30. It’s fair to say that Heyneke Meyer has gone with a fair bit of experience.

There are some young’uns, though. The aforementioned Kriel and de Jager are 21 and 22 respectively. Both burst onto the scene this year and made a big difference – Kriel in the 13 jersey and de Jager at lock. All in all, there are eight players under 25.

While those older players might be a risk in terms of longevity for the tournament, I don’t think there will be a great deal of difficulty managing it. They may not even get much of a run. De Villiers is ably covered in the centres by de Allende and Kriel, Matfield by de Jager and Etzebeth. Brits will likely be the third hooker behind the slightly younger du Plessis and Strauss.

I’ll go on record, here. Despite the criticism Meyer has received for selecting from the retirement village, I thnk he may have done very well with what he has. Think de Allende and Kriel, Etzebeth and de Jager on the field – enough to manage against most world teams, with Matfield and de Villiers on the bench to steady the ship. Not a bad situation to be in at all.

3.  The Hospital Ward

Missing Duane Vermeulen would be a huge loss – especially into the finals

What may be an issue is the list of walking wounded on the 31 man squad. Of course, Jean de Villiers’ recent return from a broken leg lends credence to the idea that the team is too old. Duane Vermuelen, though, is only 29 and hasn’t played since his recent neck surgery.

With JP Pietersen, Fourie de Preez, Willie le Roux, and Jannie du Plessis on the questionable list, it makes for an interesting issue. Especially when form flanker, Marcel Coetzee wasn’t able to be selected because of his medial ligament injury.

4.  Do We Really Need To Go there?

Zane Kirchner is one of several players at the centre of the race row.

Okay, let’s. Race quotas. Nothing dredges up more emotion and debate among South Africans (and a lot of others) at the moment. The guideline states that there should be seven ‘non-white’ players in each match day 23. That, in turn, means a commensurate number of ‘non-white’ players must be in the 31.

It’s become enough of an issue that one organisation in South Africa have taken the Union to court to have them pulled from the Cup. While that case has been dropped, the spectre of the issue still hangs over the team. South Africa’s first black player capped during the professional era, Kaya Malotona, has weighed in on the issue, as well, indicating he believes better management solutions and development are the answers, rather than the quotas.

Opinions of whether the system is the right way to improve the pathway for coloured people in South Africa are irrelevant to the result, at this point. The concern is whether the talent of the team has been diluted and whether the vehement arguments have taken a toll on the team. Only time will tell.

5. The Pool  B Gift

Can the Boks manage both Scotland and Samoa with their injury list?

The draw for the tournament may be the saving grace for the Bokke. Pool B is definitely the least competitive for 1st place. South Africa is the only top five team. Scotland come in at number 10 and Samoa at 12. The pool is rounded out with Japan and the USA.

South Africa are expected to go through on top of the pool, followed by either Scotland or Samoa. While Japan and USA will be pressing their own cases, the added competition for second is likely to strengthen the Springboks’ hold on the top spot. Even if they are upset at some point, it is doubtful they’ll fall below second.

The other benefit is pool A’s uncertainty. Irrespective of whether they finish in first or second, the uncertainty of pool A (who are the quarter final pairings) means neither position is necessarily better than the other. So, South Africa can really concentrate on moving through the pool stage.

  • Avid

    Thanks Chris for your great work again.
    Handy but obvious if the Boks tank v Scotland or Samoa, to chart a better semis run.
    SA and NZ’s pool competition will have them both way underdone.
    Hardened Aus + Eng will likely head into the final 4. (imho)

  • Seb V

    I really hope Vermuelen is fit and firing. He is a special player to watch.

    • Avid

      Jesse Kriel also. Very dangerous 13.

      • Seb V

        Agreed but I didn’t realise Kriel had an injury too?

  • Antony

    Firmly believe that Marcel Coetzee feigned an injury once he heard that Dean Mumm got picked.

    • Duvstar

      Thanks for this, just had a rewatch. Absolute gold

  • Seb V

    Anyone know what form Fourie de Preez has been in lately? Before leaving SA and before A.Smith burst on the scene I rated him the best half-back around. Great passing game, great running game and is one of few that can actually put up an accurate bomb.

  • issac maw

    South Africa have already won 2 haven’t they. I believe they’re chasing their third?

    • Chris M

      Correct. Can I pretend that I left that there to see who was taking notice? No. I won’t try that.

      I’ll fix it when I’m home, though.

  • Chinese Dave

    Damn, Habana, Matfield and de Villiers really look worse for wear.

  • Simon

    #5 is the reason my Fantasy Rugby team (the creatively named Offside Seven Blacks) will be carrying its maximum allowable complement of Saffas throughout the pool stage, despite their poor form leading into the tournament. Even the Boks should be able to score some tries against those teams.

  • Bernardo Faria

    Marcel Coetzee is probably the best player left out of the world cup.

    • Mica

      Brussouw would give him a fair run for his money from an SA perspective. Then there’s guys like Gill who’d walk into most teams and a raft of kiwis.

  • jamie

    Already won two Web-Ellis trophy’s Chris. Apart from that little error you’re doing a fantastic job with these!

    • Brendan Hume

      Jean de Villiers is coming back from a broken jaw IIRC. He was coming back from the leg when he did that.

      Agree – great job

  • Funk

    The Boks are still definitely a team with every possibility of winning this WC. Although they lost their RC games, the Wallabies only just beat them from an after the buzzer try, that just brushed a blade of grass, the aig’s just beat them through a line out move of dubious legality, and they did come back to beat the Argies in Argentina. They have an awful lot of talent in that team and they can beat any team on their day.

    • Ryphon

      Not to mention the Boks have a sensational record in World Cups and have won one already in the Northern Hemisphere. While Pool B is relatively easy, they’re likely to face Eng/Aus in the quarters and NZ in the Semi’s. If they get there, they’ll be one of the few teams to back themselves against the AB’s as they always lift against the men in black.

    • JJJ

      They were certainly towelling us up before they made all those early substitutions and let us back into the game. I doubt that would happen again in a non-pool RWC match. Still the world #2 in my opinion, assuming politics doesn’t cripple them.

  • Canuckruck

    I can’t help but think that SA might regret not selecting Heinrich Brüssow. On his game there is almost no one better over the ball at the breakdown, except maybe D. Pocock.

  • Brendan Hume

    It will be interesting to see whether the Pool B slot if a gift or a curse. With the squad selected you would think it will be a gift – perhaps with a slightly younger and less experienced squad it may have had the opposite effect in providing cruisy games and a false sense of security. Many of this group have been at the pointy end before. If old bodies hold up, they’re a definite danger.

  • “They certainly aren’t used to coming last in the Rugby Championship.”

    They were certainly good at coming last in the Tri-Nations though. Just goes to show that rugby skills are transferrable from one competition to another.

  • Davo

    Wouldn’t surprise to see South Africa’s opponents in Pool B all play their reserve teams against them, so they can conserve their best players for beating the others in Pool B for 2nd spot.

    • Chris M

      By the same token, it wouldn’t surprise me if SA played their reserve teams, too.

  • Fboy

    Seems to me SAhabe the worst draw in the tournament.

    Australia might have the pool of death but are rewarded with an easier run should they win it.

    SA have an easy pool to win but then are guaranteed Oz/England (maybe Wales) in quarters then NZ in semis. If was any other nation id almost feel sorry for them. :)

    Crazy when tanking your pool gets you an easier run to the final. SA thankfully would never do it. Not sure most other nations wouldn’t consider it.

    • Chris M

      I think you are right about the path forward. New Zealand has the same sort of issue.

Rugby

Mrs Mac thinks Chris talks about Rugby far too much. She's probably right. If he's not coaching, he's watching. And if he's not doing either, he's jibbering incessantly about it. He has also been named as a finalist in the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year for 2015. Mrs Mac remains unimpressed.

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