John Smit believes that the Springboks are well-placed ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, adding that the selection of Willie le Roux at fullback was “exactly what our team’s needed”.
Smit was speaking to the Cape Times on the sidelines of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour at Kelvin Grove this week, with the Webb Ellis Cup having arrived in South Africa on Monday, with Johannesburg and Pretoria getting first sight of the golden trophy before it was whisked off to the Cape for a two-day visit.
The former Springbok captain, who held the cup aloft in the triumphant 2007 campaign in France, said that South Africa have grown under coach Heyneke Meyer, who took over from Peter de Villiers in early 2012.
The Boks open their World Cup mission against Japan in Brighton on September 19 next year, followed by pool matches against Samoa, Scotland and the USA.
“I like what Heyneke’s done over the last two years. I’ve seen really good progression in how they’ve played. He’s shown some interesting selections – I mean, the introduction of Willie le Roux is quite unlike South African (rugby), but it’s exactly what our team’s needed and gives us far better balance as well,” Smit said.
“So, I think we are well-placed. I think we are up against a formidable challenge. There are a far greater number of teams who can compete for the title than there ever have been I think, and our pathway – and that’s bearing in mind that we win all our pool games – is going to be a very challenging one.”
But it’s still a long way to go until next September, with the Boks facing a tough encounter against Argentina in the Rugby Championship in Salta on Saturday, after just getting past Los Pumas 13-6 at Loftus last week. Smit says that it’s never an easy Test against Argentina.
“I tell you what, we’ve made a meal of bloody Argentina every time we’ve played them. We obviously aren’t suited, because even in my time, I tell you those were some of the hardest Test matches in Argentina,” he said.
“I think a result is important, and I think we will be just a little bit better than them this weekend. And I am guessing that we are not going to have hail in Salta!
“One thing I’ve learnt in a short period of time, not knowing Heyneke, is that planning is paramount and he has been meticulous in his journey. I think he has been planning his time as Springbok coach way before he got given the post, so I think we have to trust him.”
SPRINGBOK WORLD CUP SCHEDULE 2015
September 19: Japan, Brighton Community Centre, Brighton (4.45pm). September 26: Samoa, Villa Park, Birmingham (4.45pm). October 3: Scotland, St James’ Park, Newcastle (4.45pm). October 7: USA, Olympic Stadium, London (4.45pm). - Cape Times