Ok the Boks ticked their first major box of the RWC in reaching the quarterfinals. Let’s be honest though … not qualifying from their group would have been an unmitigated disaster not seen in this country since Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma took his oath of office in May 2009.
HIGHLY LIKELY BOKS WILL MEET IRELAND IN THE QUARTERS
The next hurdle is likely to be Ireland. Despite their loss to Japan they are still heavy favourites to top their group. Assuming an Irish bonus point win over Samoa – practically a given – and assuming a Japan win over Samoa, the Brave Blossoms would have to then beat Scotland to overtake Ireland at the top of the group. A bonus point win and a draw would also do it for Japan. Scotland are the bookies favourites to beat Japan and would be expected to do so. So let’s pencil in Ireland as our next opponents. Based on what we have seen from the Boks so far … are we good enough to beat Ireland?
SPRINGBOK PACK IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD
As Rassie rightly pointed out, the Boks physical performance is where it should be and that is something that will give Ireland a few sleepless nights. Historically the Boks have relied on their physical game to get an edge over opponents but in recent years this trait has been lacking. Ironically this has also been one of Ireland’s key strengths in their rise up the world rankings.
The Bok pack has no-one to fear. The tight five has the most depth in the competition and is arguably up there with the best we have ever had. Any combination of front rankers and locks in our squad would be the envy of any other team. That competition for places is the key to driving performance as well as allowing Rassie to rotate and keep the players fresh. It is therefore understandable that Rassie wants to keep games tight and play to our strengths.
ATTACK MISSING SWYS?
While our defence under the tutelage of renowned Jacques Nienaber has been water tight – only conceding 2 tries in our 3 games – it’s our lack of finesse in attack that is of concern. Could it be the untimely resignation of Swys de Bruin before the RWC that is the problem? No disrespect to his replacement, Felix Jones, but maybe he hasn’t been afforded enough time to get his ideas across? Or could it be that we are just not executing? It could also be that we have the wrong personnel in one or two positions – think Willie le Roux! There might be some light at the end of the tunnel though as Jones ironically worked with the Ireland team in 2017 and may know a thing or two that could really help the Boks in the quarters. It’s also worth pointing out …. the last time we won the RWC in 2007 we had a late appointment also named Jones as an assistant!!
To conclude, I don’t think the Boks need to fear Ireland. Ireland’s results this year have not been great. They lost to England in Feb, narrowly beat Italy, lost to Wales in March then got thumped by England in August. Their loss to Japan was largely their reserve side so we can’t read much into that but the bottom line is that they are not the team that beat NZ last year.