As the title suggests this will be a look ahead to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year. A look at South Africa’s chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy for a record equaling 3rd time.
I can’t help but to go on the current form of our franchise teams in the super rugby tournament and while in the beginning most of our team were extremely inconsistent, in the last few weeks we’ve seen SA teams looking to come good for the last stages of the tournament. Teams like the Sharks and Stormers have looked dangerous on attack while showing steely determination in defense, the Lions have shown what they are capable of in attack while the Bulls sit on top of the conference being the most consistent SA team thus far. In short after a poor start SA teams are getting their act together so to speak.
Another positive has been the resting of key players this season as SA rugby looks to avoid major injury. The top players are rested where possible and also no risk with smaller injuries which is good to see that we are looking after our boys because come the RWC time we will need the best of the best.
Now while I won’t be talking about specific players just yet because we haven’t yet seen our Bok squad announced for the rugby championship. What I will be doing is looking back to our last world cup and also looking at our fixtures for this year’s tournament.
RWC 2015 was one at the time I did not believe we could win and a shock defeat to Japan in the group stages seemed to confirm my suspicion that the 2015 squad didn’t have what it took to lift the trophy. To my surprise we qualified from the group in top spot beating out a top Scottish side that would run Australia close and perhaps with a different referee on the day could have beaten the Ozzies. Nevertheless we went through and in top spot; our next encounter would be a good Welsh side who I had believed could be dark horses in the tournament. It wasn’t to be for them as we edged them to 23-19 and suddenly the mood around SA supporters had changed. We started to believe in our boys again, to down a top Welsh side like that seemed to galvanise both the team and its supporters. Next on the agenda was our biggest rival and the best team in the world for the past 20 years; New Zealand. It was a close run affair which was surprising in a few ways, one because New Zealand had swept away everyone before them by big margins and because they were taking on a supposedly weaker South Africa than perhaps previous SA teams. It was a great encounter and the Boks were in it right until the end but came up just short losing out 20-18 to the eventual winners and the only team to secure back to back world cup crowns. Not a bad attempt if you ask me for a side that was written off after that shock loss to Japan.
2019 we start as we finished in 2015 with a clash against the almighty All Blacks in Japan. This will go a long way to seeing if we stand any chance in the tournament, however I think a win could hurt us more that a loss in this case. A win for us will, as if they need it, make the All Blacks wake up and play their best rugby and we’ve seen in the last 2 world cups that is bad news for everyone. I think in this case a humbling loss might just show us the level that the All Blacks are on and what we will have to do to beat them next time around would be in the final and remember what happened last time we were an under dog to New Zealand in a final? Our next games will be against Namibia, Italy and Canada these teams I don’t expect much from but we’ve seen shocks in the past. Overall I think we will make it through our group relatively unscathed from there in my opinion, there are only really 3 teams that can beat us but who I believe we should beat if we are at our best. The 3 teams I’m afraid of are Australia, England and Ireland if we meet one of these teams it could be game over for us but I do believe we can get passed them on our best day and meet whoever is in the final, possibly one of those three alongside the All Blacks, I don’t see any other teams threatening those in this world cup.
So can we win our 3rd world cup? Yes, I believe we can do it! I think it will take an extremely good defensive structure from us together with a well thought out game plan for each opponent. I don’t believe we can stick to one style of play like the All Blacks. They are brought up on that style and before they become All Blacks they already know what’s expected of them. Instead I think we should adapt to the situation in front of us and take it game by game. We are by no means favorites to win in Japan but looking at super rugby I think our players are possibly peaking at just the right time and if we can select the right team we can be very dangerous in this world cup especially with Siya Kolisi as captain of our side. He leads by example and is exactly the man I believe can take us to world cup glory once again.