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Nowhere to Hide

The team announcement actually came as a relief after much speculation during the week, particularly regarding the inclusion of Victor Matfield and Jannie du Plessis.

15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Heyneke Meyer, in the past, followed his own head, often surprising us armchair selectors by picking players we felt should not be in the team. This time, the inclusion of Lood de Jager and Frans Malherbe caused a great sigh of relief.

This is our strongest possible side, capable of defeating the depleted, never-say-die Welsh side.

Around the coffee table, we discussed the selections, and various options in case of injuries. The backs, in particular, are a versatile bunch. An injury to a wing, for instance, could see Willie le Roux moving there, with Lambie slotting in at fullback or flyhalf, if required. JP Pietersen offers additional cover at centre, should the need arise.

It will be interesting to see how Meyer intends using his replacements. A player like Frans Malherbe will possibly only be replaced if injured. The same applies to the loose forwards. The biggest determinant will be the score with 20 minutes left to play. Meyer is 100% right in his thinking that the match will be won in the last 20 minutes. For once, he opted for experience on the bench, rather than in the starting line-up. I like.

My colleague, Bobby, makes an interesting point: South Africa played their last pool match on Wednesday, effectively giving them 10 days to recover and prepare. Wales had a gruelling match on Saturday against the Wallabies, only a week before facing a bruising opponent. Add their injury woes, and it would need a superhuman effort to move beyond the quarter-finals.

For once, my heart and my mind agree – the Springboks will pull this one off.

New Zealand/France

This is one match which I look forward to almost as much as the one discussed above. On paper, it looks like one-way traffic, but the French, despite denying it, will take a lot of heart from the brave performances of previous sides.

Only a fool or a very brave man will bet against New Zealand taking this one. Being neither, my Superbru choice will be the All Blacks.

Ireland/Argentina

The banning of Sean O’Brien, Ireland’s man of the match flank, for his retaliation punch against Pascal Pape will hurt the Irish more than the suspension of Marcelo Bosch for a dangerous tackle. Based on current world rankings, the men in green should pull this one off, but it will be grave mistake to write off Argentina, like the Springboks did, to their peril, in the Rugby Championship.

Australia/Scotland

Forget about Greek tragedies – the Scots have surpassed themselves in creating their own. Ross Ford and Jonny Gray are now both out of RWC 2015 after a disciplinary hearing. How their dangerous tackles copped them a three-week ban, while Argentina’s Bosch only got a one week sentence for a blatant spear tackle, remains one of the enigmas of adjudication in the world of rugby.

Replays

After the deluge of rugby since 18 September, I felt deprived this past week, having to wait until the weekend for the show to continue. Watching replays gets boring after a while. English supporters found a novel way of making it an enjoyable experience by watching the replay of the match against Wales in reverse to experience what it feels like to be ahead on the scoreboard.

For dessert, listen to Max Boyes singing Hymns and Arias.

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