No room for error

Springbok scrumhalf Fourie Du Preez in action against the USA.- Image by © Colorsport/Corbis

Carl de Villiers, Zululand Observer

It’s crunch time for the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup. In the play-off business end of things, one slip and you perish.

It is a sobering thought that South Africa is suddenly only two matches away from reaching the Cup final, to possibly become the first nation in history to win rugby’s Holy Grail for the third time.

But there’s work to do.

Post-Japan the Springboks regrouped admirably and built up a good head of steam by ticking off the no-nonsense Samoans and Scotland with relative ease, and then rounding off their Pool B assignments by pounding the USA into the turf with the biggest winning margin at this year’s tournament (64-0).

Let’s not be modest about it, the smart money will be on the Boks to take it through to the semi-finals against the All Blacks or France.

Welsh captain Sam Warburton said his team knew how to beat the Springboks, having won the last encounter between the two teams at Cardiff and almost beating them in Nelspruit in June last year.

Not much must be read into that. The only value historical statistics have is to make for good pre-match pep talk and interesting conversation around braai fires. Only the now is what counts.

For all their guts and glory attitude against England and Australia, there are certain limitations Welsh coach Warren Gatland admitted to, and which he said they would have to work on this week before taking on South Africa.

Discipline factor

As said before, the one factor which Bok supporters will be concerned about is the lack of discipline clearly evident among Fourie du Preez’s warriors.

In tight play-off encounters it only takes one or two crucial penalties or a yellow card at critical times to turn things around.

No doubt Meyer took his men through the rule book again – or so one hopes.

The team selection will also be followed closely.

For all the faith in lock Victor Matfield’s experience and never-say-die attitude, there’s no way Meyer can deprive the Bok squad 60 minutes or so of wrecking ball Lood de Jager – a man with fire in the belly who tackles backline players, mix it up with the best in the engine room and generally cause havoc among the opposition.

And is Jannie ‘Penalty’ du Plessis still the best man to anchor the scrums at tight-head?

South Africa’s forwards are capable of generating enough energy to power up Eskom with De Jager, Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger leading the charge, and if they do click and go tsunami style, Wales will have problems.

The tight phases are the areas South Africa must target because that is where the opposition is most vulnerable.

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