The opening match between co-hosts New Zealand and Sri Lanka will be played on 14 February, just over a month from now. South Africa’s first match is against Zimbabwe the following day.
Fourteen is also the number of countries taking part. While this may be great for the minions, eight teams competing in two sections would provide much more of a spectacle. Unfortunately, that would affect the income generated, and money talks louder than words.
The longer the tournament lasts, the bigger the chances of injury to key players, which lead to the genuine best side in the world not ending up with the cup.
There can be little complaints about the side announced last night. While Ryan McLaren may have the potential, his lack of form recently probably cost him his place. A fit Lonwabe Tsotsobe would have been a certainty, but his long-term injury robbed him of match fitness, and there is not enough time to get him back in form.
Despite the fact that seven of the players in the squad will play in their first World Cup, there is enough experience in the side to help them settle. We have the best bowler and batsman in the world in our squad, and their specialist partners, like Morkel, Philander, Du Plessis and Amla are in great form. The youngsters that have come through recently will no doubt gain a lot from the experience of the senior players.
The absence of the greatest all-rounder of all time has still not been fully discounted. Would it not indeed be a major ironic twist of fate if we win the ICC World Cup without Kallis in the mix?
Rugby World Cup
Fortunately, there is still more than eight months left for our key players to recover from injury and find form before this big spectacle kicks off with the match between hosts England and Fiji.
It is far too early to start speculating about the event, and our chances of lifting the cup.
One point I do want to make is that the unsuccessful end-of-year tour in 2014 was undoubtedly a very good thing from a Springbok perspective. It brought us down to earth after the exultation of beating the All Blacks, and showed the importance of picking the right horses for English courses, in a manner of speaking.
While we all agree that the return of Francois Louw is something to celebrate, there are those who baulk at the thought of Ruan Pienaar being in the side. There is no doubt that playing in England calls for special skills, and experience of conditions there. Perhaps Heyneke Meyer should have allowed more players to spend a year there prior to RWC?
By the way, I read over the weekend that Ricky January had a great game in France. Now that Rory Kockott is destined to play for France, maybe January and Pienaar should be the first two choices at scrumhalf?
Our national football side was the surprise packet in the qualifying rounds, and will certainly rate their chances in Africa’s biggest event.
They have scheduled two warm-up matches against Cameroon and Gabon. This should give us a clear indication of how they will shape up on foreign soil. Our lack of exposure to events of this magnitude may count against us, but doing well against Cameroon, specifically, will do wonders for the confidence.
Bafana’s opening match is against Algeria, ranked first in Africa, on 19 January. The great performance by the South Africans when last they played them in Nigeria will do a lot for their confidence when they meet in 11 days.
We really wish the team all the best for the tournament, and believe that they will make us proud.