#360View: SA's RWC Mission Impossible

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Eben Etzebeth (l) and Brodie Retallick (r) will go toe-to-toe once more.

After the All Blacks’ November victory against England in 2013, a banner reading “We are the most dominant team in the history of the world,” was found scrawled on a white board in the visitors changing room at Twickenham.

– #360view: Puma’s element of surprise has purists purring

– RWC: Meyer confident SA can down ‘best-ever’ All Blacks

– RWC: Savea driving New Zealand’s World Cup challenge

Upon being quizzed about the ‘arrogant’ slogan in a press conference, the New Zealand coaching staff were forced into clarifying that the banner was a motivational aspiration, not an egotistical pat on the back.

Two years on and Steve Hansen’s men stand two victories away from becoming the first team to retain the World Cup and with it, fulfilling their prophesy.

In their way stand a resurgent South Africa that have been galvanized by a shock loss to Japan into producing some frightening displays of power en route to the semi-finals.

New Zealand’s win-ratio of 58% against South Africa is by some way their poorest margin of return in international rugby and the All Blacks will not be taking their old nemesis lightly.

Earlier this week New Zealand centre Conrad Smith paid his respects to the green and gold labeling South Africa as his team’s ‘ultimate rival.’

The reason for such high-handed praise comes from a similar mentality and approach to rugby from junior-level upwards between the two nations. South Africans, like kiwis, are born into a society where rugby is law and with it, an innate belief that they should win every game they play.

There is an enormous amount of respect between the two sides, whose players have come to know their opposite numbers almost as well as their own during regular clashes throughout the year and win or lose will always share a drink post-game.

After a disastrous Rugby Championship and calamitous opening round at the World Cup, the Springboks have reverted back to their tried and tested power-game to devastating effect.

With one-off runners hitting the gain-line at speed off the fly-half, expect some gruesome collisions. This game is likely to be an exciting war of attrition more than a free-flowing display of champagne rugby.

It is not often that second-rows occupy the limelight in a game but on Saturday it will be more than just rugby aficionados who will be keen to see the outcome of the engine-room battle.

In Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth South Africa possess an abundance of raw power, while 2014 IRB Player of the Year Brodie Retallick is a shrewd lineout operator that will cover every inch of the field for New Zealand.

It is no secret that New Zealand’s primary strength lies within their superior fitness and ability to punish teams out wide with quick ball.

If South Africa’s bully-boys are able to out-scrum their counterparts,  be disruptive at the breakdown and slow the attack, this game – like the last four between the teams – will go down to the wire.

Most popular

#360view: Pumas' element of surprise has the purists purring

James Piercy 22/10/2015
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Argentina have surprised many this World Cup.

There is a school of thought among a certain strain of purist that rugby in the professional era is nowhere near as exciting as the amateur age.

A focus on defence and tactical kicking has reduced it to pumped-up chess, ultimately decided by which side does the basics the best. How terribly unromantic.

It’s true that professionalism and the subsequent growth of sports science has led to bigger and fitter players, while analytical studies of each game allow the smallest errors and imperfections to be, theoretically, ironed out.

– #360Rugby: Can anyone stop the All Blacks in England?
– RWC: Joubert misses out on semis after controversy

– #360view: Back to drawing board for northern hemisphere
– #360business: All Blacks land partnership with Bulgari

However, any curmudgeons still yearning for a lost era that, as is the case with most nostalgia is ultimately rose-tinted, may have changed their opinion slightly following Argentina’s performance against Ireland on Sunday.

The Pumas played the sort of free-flowing rugby with a degree of reckless abandon that had the purists reaching for the VCRs of the great Welsh teams of the 1970s.

From the risky offloads of captain Agustin Creevy to the support lines run by their electric back three of Santiago Cordero, Juan Imhoff and Joaquin Tuculet, the first and last 20 minutes of the match at the Millennium Stadium was a throwback to the days of yore.

If Ireland were abiding by a straightforward verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure, Argentina were playing free jazz.

As is the case with that genre, most don’t know what to make of it. And Ireland, the northern hemisphere’s best defensive and most organised side, had no idea what to do. Yes, they were lacking the experience of Paul O’Connell and trusted lieutenants Peter O’Mahoney, Johnny Sexton and Sean O’Brien but the stoic def-ence and strict game management employed by Joe Schmidt went out of the window.

All this expansive rugby can be considered most un-Argentinian. The Pumas have traditionally been a hit ‘em hard up front and kick the points-type side. Yet something in the last five years has changed dramatically.

By entering the Rugby Championship in 2012, Argentina have realised you cannot beat the elite by playing a well-drilled, strutual gameplan. There has to be the element of surprise to your play.

As Daniel Hourcarde and his coaching staff admit, competing against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on a regular basis can only have a positive long-term effect. Each one offers something different to add to your own style.

The Pumas now put that to the test against one of the sides that has aided their development, with the Wallabies waiting. In successive games, Wales and Scotland have made Australia look human whereas Argentina look capable of anything at present.

Most popular

Giteau delights at second chance ahead of RWC semis

Andy Newport 22/10/2015
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Successful return: Giteau.

Matt Giteau has gladly rewritten his plans of earning money on the speaking circuit to help Australia to the brink of claiming a spot in the World Cup final.

– #360Rugby: Can anyone stop the All Blacks in England?
– RWC: Joubert misses out on semis after controversy
– #360view: Back to drawing board for northern hemisphere
– RWC: Meyer believes SA can down best-ever All Blacks

Giteau celebrated his 100th cap with a man of the match performance in Sunday’s controversial 35-34 victory over Scotland and now faces a semi-final appointment with Argentina at Twickenham.

The 33-year-old has benefited from coach Michael Cheika’s demand to the Australian Rugby Union that they reverse a long-standing policy by allowing him to pick overseas players if they have made 60 or more international appearances.

It has lured Giteau away from his Test exile at Toulon where he has been magnificent since his shock exclusion from the Wallabies’ World Cup squad in 2011.

“I never thought I’d be playing in a World Cup semi-final a year ago,” Giteau said. “I thought I’d be doing a couple of speaking gigs to get a bit of cash. That was the plan but it’s just been an amazing ride for me this last six months.

“We showed a lot of character at the end against Scotland. Personally, I’m just happy we survived another week.

“The 100th cap was good, but the man of the match award I think should have gone to someone else in our team. We take a lot from the way we regrouped, how calm we were when they scored a try with only four or five minutes left.

“We were able to get down their end and apply pressure. We took a lot of confidence out of that.”

Giteau will duel with Toulon team-mate Juan Martin Hernandez when Argentina attempt to reach the final for the first time on Sunday. “

Juan is a beautiful man – I’ve always told him that at Toulon. He’s very skilful, he’s tough, defensively strong and adds a lot of stability to that team,” Giteau said.

“I know what it’s like to play with him, especially in big games. He is a very, very good player. He’s very confident in what he does and the things he can do a lot of other players can’t.

“Argentina are very good at every World Cup. Whatever they do, they always seem to peak in these tournaments. They’re incredibly dangerous.”

Most popular

Related Sections