Springboks Rugby World Cup 2019 preview, news, South Africa


Siya Kolisi dreams of becoming the first black Springboks skipper to lift the Rugby World Cup trophy, and complete the remarkable transformation of the team from “a dark place to a good space.”

South Africa and defending champions New Zealand, who clash on September 21 in a blockbuster Pool B opener in Japan, look set to reach the quarterfinals at the expense of Italy, Canada and Namibia.

“If we are lucky and avoid injuries, we should go far,” says coach Rassie Erasmus without publicly setting a target for a nation that have been champions twice.

Flanker Kolisi is “excited and nervous” ahead of the World Cup, adding: “I get wonderful support and advice from my teammates and there is no reason to fear anyone.”

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South Africa became a laughing stock of world rugby two years ago after a 57-0 thrashing away to arch rivals New Zealand, the heaviest loss suffered by the green and gold in their 128-year history.

Officials reacted to the humiliation by firing coach Allister Coetzee early last year and hiring Erasmus, a former Springboks flanker.

Among the first decisions Erasmus made was choosing Kolisi, then 26, as the first black Test captain of the Springboks.

It was a huge progressive step in the often tortoise-like advance from an all-white to a racially balanced squad that reflected a population that is 92 per cent black.

There are a record 11 black Springboks in the 31-man squad that arrived in Japan.

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It is not the 50 per cent black representation the government sought, but there is general acceptance that Erasmus has taken racial transformation seriously and up to nine could make the matchday 23.

A meticulous planner, Erasmus has also brought calm to the World Cup build-up where previously there often was chaos, notably in 2003.

Then, the “team building” exercises of coach Rudolf Straeuli included forcing his squad to swim in freezing midwinter conditions and huddle near-naked in a cave.

“Rassie has taken us out of a dark space and put us in a good place,” said South African rugby boss Mark Alexander after the Springboks won the single-round 2019 Rugby Championship last month.

Erasmus stresses that “we are in with a much better chance of winning the World Cup now than 18 months ago, but I would not call us favourites.

“While winning the Championship for the first time was great having played two of our three matches away, that counts for nothing now.

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South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus takes part in a training session in Kumagaya.
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus takes part in a training session in Kumagaya.Source: AFP

— ‘MIRACULOUS’ —

“Our preparations have gone exactly to plan, so if things do not go our way, we can only point fingers at ourselves.”

While there were decisive victories over Australia and Argentina in the Championship, it was a 16-16 draw away to reigning world champions New Zealand that pleased South African supporters most.

In two visits since the 57-point drubbing, the Springboks have beaten the All Blacks by two points and drawn in a turnaround described by South African pundits as “miraculous.”

Fourteen of the matchday 23 humiliated near Auckland in September 2017 are in Japan — so how did Erasmus put the spring back in the Boks?

Who better to judge than a former foe, long-time New Zealand scrumhalf Justin Marshall, now a TV analyst.

“Rassie has taken the Springboks away from a game plan almost totally reliant on tactical kicking,” he said during a recent visit to South Africa.

“South Africa won the World Cup twice largely with game plans based on kicking for territory and forcing opponents into errors.

South Africa take part in a training session at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.
South Africa take part in a training session at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.Source: AFP

“Now, there is less predictability from the Springboks and it is wonderful to see the great rivalry between them and the All Blacks reignited.

“Wellington was buzzing ahead of the recent Test and my assessment of the South Africans is that they are a happy, confident squad.”

The biggest selection headache for Erasmus is who to pick on the right wing between in-form contenders Cheslin Kolbe and Sibusiso Nkosi.

Fullback Willie le Roux, centres Lukanyo Am and Damian de Allende, left wing Makazole Mapimpi, fly-half Handre Pollard and scrum-half Faf de Klerk should complete the backline.

The pack could include props Tendai Mtawarira or Steven Kitshoff and Trevor Nyakane, hooker Malcolm Marx, locks Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, with Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen manning the back row.

If the Springboks conquer the world this November it will maintain a sequence of winning the competition every 12 years having previously triumphed in 1995 and 2007.

South Africans will also be encouraged by the late inclusion of Irishman Felix Jones in the coaching team as another Jones, Australian Eddie, assisted Jake White in the triumphant 2007 campaign.

Argentina winger Sebastian Cancelliere tackles South Africa flanker Siya Kolisi.
Argentina winger Sebastian Cancelliere tackles South Africa flanker Siya Kolisi.Source: AFP

POOL B: SOUTH AFRICA, NEW ZEALAND, ITALY, NAMIBIA, CANADA

WORLD RANKING: 4TH (87.34)

HOW QUALIFIED: AUTOMATIC (TOP 12)

RWC HISTORY: PLAYED 36, 30 WINS, 6 LOSSES, 0 DRAWS

1995: WINNERS

1999: SEMIFINALS

2003: QUARTERFINALS

2007: WINNERS

2011: QUARTERFINALS

2015: SEMIFINALS

— SPRINGBOKS GOLD NUGGETS

● Won the Rugby Championship this year for the first time since 2009.

● Are unbeaten this year in five games and it is the second time they are undefeated heading into a World Cup (1995).

● Their average points scored per game this year (30) is their highest since 2013 (34).

AIM FOR THE TOURNAMENT: “If we are lucky and avoid injuries, we should go far” — coach Rassie Erasmus

PLAYER TO WATCH: Handre Pollard

The fly half led Super Rugby (194) and the Rugby Championship (42) in points scored this year and made the equal most try assists (10) and second most linebreak assists (18) in Super Rugby.

The 2014 world junior player of the year will join Montpellier following the World Cup after five seasons with the Bulls.

Handre Pollard of South Africa scores a try at Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium.
Handre Pollard of South Africa scores a try at Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium.Source: Getty Images

TOP RWC POINT-SCORER: Percy Montgomery (111)

TOP TRY-SCORER: Bryan Habana (15)

POOL GAMES (AEST)

SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER

SOUTH AFRICA v NEW ZEALAND: 7.45pm at International Stadium, Yokohama

SATURDAY 28 SEPTEMBER

SOUTH AFRICA v NAMIBIA: 7.45pm at City of Toyota Stadium

FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER

SOUTH AFRICA v ITALY: 7.45pm at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa

TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER

SOUTH AFRICA v CANADA: 9.15pm at Kobe Misaki Stadium

SPRINGBOKS RWC SQUAD

COACH: Rassie Erasmus

CAPTAIN: Siya Kolisi

Willie le Roux, Warrick Gelant, Cheslin Kolbe, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Herschel Jantjies. Forwards: Schalk Brits, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Steven Kitshoff, Tendai Mtawarira, RG Snyman, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen

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Publish date : 2019-09-11 04:45:40

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