Of course the Boks can win it, but don’t bet your bot­tom dol­lar

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief dan.retief@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

t’s a ques­tion that’s been on ev­ery rugby fan’s lips ever since the end of the Rugby Cham­pi­onship in which the Spring­boks fin­ished bot­tom of the log: Can the Spring­boks win the World Cup?

ca­pa­ble of beat­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, the All Blacks and, as the record shows, have the beat­ing of all the other teams.

But then a canny in­quisi­tor put a dif­fer­ent spin on the ques­tion.

He asked: Do the Spring­boks stand a re­al­is­tic chance of win­ning the World Cup?

The sting was in the word ‘re­al­is­tic’ and, put that way, the an­swer must be no, they don’t. The build-up has been too fraught. The Spring­boks don’t pass muster when it comes to some of the ma­jor el­e­ments that have been present in the make-up of all the teams that have won the Webb El­lis Cup – a set­tled, ma­ture squad, and a con­fi­dent coach, cap­tain and team go­ing into the tour­na­ment buoyed by win­ning mo­men­tum.

You’ve got to say one thing for Heyneke Meyer – he hasn’t left a stone un­turned in his search for the best Spring­bok side to take to the tour­na­ment.

But for Jaco Kriel and Ju­lian Redel­inghuys of the Lions, ev­ery­one who might have had a sniff of be­ing on the plane to Eng­land was given a chance – al­beit some en­joy­ing a few more goes than oth­ers.

Meyer, who has cre­ated quite a few new Spring­boks since com­ing into the job in 2012, in­vited 48 play­ers to his train­ing camps this year and de­ployed 38 in the match- day squads he se­lected for the five games the Boks played ahead of the World Cup.

He also checked on the avail­abil­ity and readi­ness of the many who were over­seas.

Meyer was painstak­ing, and you have to con­cede that the man had aw­ful luck.

Apart from the ob­vi­ous in­juries that be­fell rank­ing play­ers such as Jean de Vil­liers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Ver­meulen and Vic­tor Mat­field, there were other set­backs that ham­pered his team-build­ing.

Meyer had plans for young­sters such as Coe­nie Oosthuizen, Pi­eterSteph du Toit, Arno Botha and Steven Kit­shoff, but could not re­alise those be­cause of the in­jury scourge.

He got Jean de Vil­liers back only to have his des­ig­nated cap­tain break his jaw! – as Naas Botha would say, “some­where along the line” the pair must have been se­ri­ously dis­re­spect­ful to the God­dess of Luck.

There were too few tests to give Lionel Mapoe, Scarra Ntubeni, Rudy Paige, Faf de Klerk and El­ton Jan­tjies a proper run and, in the end, the only “new face” he was able to in­tro­duce was Jesse Kriel.

The coach could not once field his best pack of for­wards. The re­turn of De Vil­liers had the ef­fect of break­ing up a promis­ing part­ner­ship that was de­vel­op­ing be­tween Kriel and Damian de Al­lende.

Per­haps it also mud­dled the mind of Han­dré Pol­lard just when he needed the young fly half to be set­tled – ne­ces­si­tat­ing the re­turn of Pat Lam­bie and more un­cer­tainty.

On top of this, Meyer was un­able to get the trans­for­ma­tion bal­ance right, invit­ing stri­dent in­vec­tive that the team could have done with­out.

So in­stead of the puz­zle tak­ing shape, the pieces lie scat­tered. The World Cup tour­na­ment is not the place to try to bring it all to­gether – so the con­clu­sion must be that while the Boks “can” win the tour­na­ment, the “re­al­is­tic” sit­u­a­tion is that they prob­a­bly won’t.

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