De­lib­er­ately los­ing a game, as some fans have sug­gested, would be dan­ger­ous. Best to play it safe and beat all seven teams

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­

There is no easy way to win the rugby World Cup and this year the task is go­ing to be harder than any­thing the Boks have at­tempted be­fore. Whereas it used to be said that only five coun­tries have a gen­uine shot at tak­ing the Webb El­lis Cup, the num­bers at the top have swollen.

In pre­vi­ous World Cups, you looked no fur­ther than the three pow­er­houses of the south – New Zealand, South Africa and Aus­tralia – and the lead­ing two of the north – Eng­land and France – to di­vine a pos­si­ble win­ner. How­ever, the race is go­ing to be much tighter in Eng­land this year.

Ire­land, now ranked sec­ond in the world, have come on in leaps and bounds, and Wales have been on an in­tense train­ing ex­er­cise in an at­tempt to prove that they can es­cape from Pool A.

Pool A from the get-go has been termed the pool of death be­cause it also con­tains the hosts, Eng­land, plus Aus­tralia – both pre­vi­ous win­ners.

The group is com­pleted by Fiji and Uruguay, but it is in­ter­est­ing that an ex­pert ob­server such as for­mer Wal­laby Ge­orge Smith be­lieves the is­lan­ders have it in them to shock the big three.

Samoa, who are in Pool B with South Africa, re­cently ran the All Blacks close and, in Pool C, Los Pu­mas would have taken great heart from hav­ing re­cently de­feated the Spring­boks.

Jake White, who led South Africa to vic­tory in France in 2007, be­lieved in a sim­ple mantra: “You win seven matches, you win the World Cup.”

What White meant was that each team faces a to­tal of seven games – four in the pool stage and three in the knock­out stages. And the eas­i­est way to claim the Webb El­lis Cup is sim­ply to win all seven – that way there can be no glitches.

Nat­u­rally, there have been up­sets – such as France scrap­ing through to the fi­nal in 2011 in spite of los­ing two pool matches, but as White was fond of say­ing: “Why leave any­thing to chance?”

By study­ing the match sched­ule, the Spring­boks’ op­ti­mum route is easy to plot.

They have to win their pool to reach the quar­ter­fi­nals as the win­ners of Pool C.

The Boks’ tough­est games will be Samoa in Birm­ing­ham and Scot­land in New­cas­tle.

If they emerge un­scathed, their last-eight game will be against the run­ners-up in Pool A – any of Eng­land, Aus­tralia, Wales and Fiji.

Win that and they’re slated to meet the All Blacks in the semi­fi­nal, and if they man­age to slay their neme­sis, the fi­nal will be against the top team emerg­ing from the other side of the draw – shap­ing up as Eng­land, Aus­tralia, France or Ire­land.

There have been sug­ges­tions that the Spring­boks should “throw” one of their games in the pool to try to avoid New Zealand in the semis.

Not only is this a dan­ger­ous mind-set to get into – one that just does not fit with the Bok psy­che – but if it should hap­pen that South Africa are the run­ners-up in Pool B, their quar­ter­fi­nal op­po­nents would still be ei­ther Eng­land, Aus­tralia, Wales or Fiji – ie, the win­ners of Pool A.

Bet­ter to just adopt White’s maxim and win all seven!


TOUGH Spring­bok winger Bryan Ha­bana runs away from Kieran Read of New Zealand. The two na­tions are likely to meet in a rugby World Cup semi­fi­nal

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