What style of play will win RWC 2015?

We are currently spoilt for choice, watching replays of previous RWC matches on Supersport.

I made some notes while reliving past glories. The soggy match between the Springboks and France in Durban in 1995 had me pour an extra glass of comfort, despite knowing the outcome.

Reliving the epic Stransky final in that year’s competition remains an exhilarating experience.

It was interesting to watch rugby played under the old rules then, where none of the modern day requirements were in place. The packs packed, scrummed and the game continued. No four-step instruction which, in almost every case, results in a reset scrum.

The line-outs had no obligatory distance between the two sides – the best man won the lineout, got rid of the ball as soon as possible, and the game flowed.

Would you believe that I actually saw Springbok forwards, props nogal, pass the ball, rather than crash into the nearest available opponent? I kid thee not. When did we lose that ability, and can we relearn it?

On a slightly more serious note: There were some players in that Springbok squad which, in hindsight, may not have been the best players in their positions. Most armchair experts rated Francois Pienaar in this category, yet it was his captaincy, coupled with the brilliance of Kitch Kristie, which won the cup for South Africa at the first attempt. There are several other names which, as far as I can recall, should possibly not have been there.

The squad for the 2015 RWC also includes some names which we are dubious about. The lesson from 1995 is that those underrated players more than pulled their weight, despite our misgivings, and I am sure that it will happen again this year. Maybe they can take a bullet against Samoa to protect the more fancied names?

Watching the 1991 final between England and Australia in England, it was evident that Michael Lynagh’s prowess with the boot would play a far bigger role than his ball distribution skills. In the end, it was his superior tactical and place kicking that helped the Wallabies come out on top.

No Springbok fan needs reminding of how we won the cup in 1995.

An interesting note I came across, doing research, had the following to say about the 1991 final:

England reached the final by playing an aggressive, forward dominated game, but appeared to respond to heavy public criticism from David Campese and rejected this style of play in the final. They chose to play a more expansive and open game, but failed to master it in the short time they had to practice it. The change in play was an attempt to unsettle the Australians, however, this proved flawed.

At one stage, in limited over cricket, every side employed the same tactic – start slowly, build a foundation and then hammer as many runs as possible in the final ten overs. Sri Lanka pitched up, set a target of 75 in the first fifteen overs and won the cup. Everybody then followed suit.

I am not holding my breath that the Springboks will change their game plan to an open style of play, but imagine if the All Blacks continue to score tries and, in the process, destroy the myth that kicking, and kicking only, wins the World Cup?

Conversely, imagine if they change their style, like England, and lose to the Springboks who are more adept at the kicking game?

The mind boggles at the thought.

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