When the junior Springboks take on the pride of England, it will not be child’s play. There is some serious bulk on display in both sides. The big test will not be height or weight though – heart is what will make the difference.
The English side had an easier passage into the final, including their semi-final match against Ireland, which they won in the first 20 minutes. Whilst they may have left them fresher for the big match than the baby Boks, who had to fight a rear guard battle to come from behind and beat the junior All Blacks, it may not have prepared them for the physicality required on Friday against a tough SA side.
In terms of confidence, the junior Springboks have the edge, having beaten the home side, and favourites, twice in ten days. The English, on the other hand, may have a false sense of security after defeating lesser opponents.
I expect the Springboks to start the match at a furious pace to unsettle the English side. Past experience has shown that a rattled English side makes unforced errors, and our boys are well equipped to pounce on these.
Should the opposite happen, Pollard’s men has shown against the baby Blacks that they have the mental strength to absorb pressure, and turn the tables as wave after wave of attack flounders against their solid defence.
These lads are the future of SA rugby, and I am confident that they will make us proud.
Wales will be back
The return of the Beast to the starting line-up is a positive change to the Springbok side. There can be little doubt that this is one area where the Welsh regard themselves as being at least equal to the Boks, and a lot of their play will be centred around this.
After last week’s drubbing, they will no doubt have come up with a game plan to eliminate the threat of Willie le Roux. The simplest way of doing this is to keep the ball away from him, so expect far less up and unders, and much more driving play from the forwards. It remains to be seen whether this will work against our three giant loose forwards. I suspect the bone collector and his colleagues will collect a few scalps, as well.
Despite misgivings about Steve Walsh, we have not fared too badly when he handled the whistle. The statistics that I could find read that, before 2013, he refereed in 12 matches involving South Africa. We won nine of those, lost one and drew two.
I am particularly delighted that we have a Southern hemisphere referee, and not one which the Welsh are more attuned to.
Brendan Venter recently noted in an article that Chean Roux is tasked with analysing the TMOs prior to SA test matches. This is bizarre, but necessary, given the major influence the fourth official can have on the outcome of a match. There was even talk of one particular TMO who intervened in the match by calling on the referee to “Check, check, check!”
If three officials right in the midst of the game cannot see what is happening, then one of two things need to happen – they need to pass obligatory eye tests, or the rules need to be simplified.
Soccer World Cup
Upset results are becoming a common occurrence in Brazil, with the champions departing the scene in the first round, while their fellow finalists from the previous world cup are going from strength to strength. The Germans are looking ominously good, while Brazil appears to emulate the Crusaders in Super Rugby.
Tonight, England take on Uruguay and even their media appears to be, shall we say, slightly sceptical of their chances: