My head and heart have always been with the Springboks in Japan
Opinion / 18 September 2019, 12:45pm / Mark Keohane
CAPE TOWN - For the past 12 months I’ve insisted that the All Blacks won’t win a third successive World Cup.
My head has always been with the Springboks. So too my heart.
Saturday’s Boks versus All Blacks match is the 100th between rugby’s two greatest rivals. It will be both teams’ first match at this year’s World Cup and it will also be the last match of the World Cup. It will be 1995 revisited and the final will be as dramatic and the result will be as favourable for South Africa.
The All Blacks in 2015 had no equal. The All Blacks in 2019 are very much among the equals.
The Boks under Rassie Erasmus are a team on the rise while the All Blacks, under outgoing coach Steve Hansen, are a team that for the past two years have been in gradual decline.I have been bullish about the Boks when it comes to the All Blacks.
I picked them to win at Newlands in 2017 a few weeks after taking a record-beating 57-0 thumping. They lost by a point.
I picked them to finally break their losing streak in 2018 and they did so in beating the All Blacks in Wellington.
I also picked them to upset the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship. The match ended in a draw.
Lastly, I have picked them to beat the All Blacks twice at this year’s World Cup, on Saturday and in the final. And I am not alone.
The Bleacher Report, published just a few days after the 2015 World Cup final, predicted the Boks to be world champions. “After crumbling to the Cherry Blossoms in arguably the biggest Rugby World Cup upset ever (in 2015), doesn’t it only seem fate-like that South Africa should storm back to grad redemption on Japanese soil in 2019.”
The Boks’ surge in the past year has them instilled second favourites behind the All Blacks, and they have been the team most rugby analysts, commentators and writers are talking about. Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, the most celebrated player in his country’s professional history, said for Ireland to win the World Cup they would want to avoid the Boks in a quarter-final and rather play the All Blacks.
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The Sunday Times’ most influential rugby writers Stephen Jones and Stuart Barnes have both predicted the Boks to conquer the world.
Jones wrote: “South Africa. The Springboks have form and a talented and well-balanced team in their favour.”
Barnes was even more generous in his praise: “South Africa. They have the full range to win it. A solid defence, a pack with strength in depth, an in-form set of half-backs, a goal kicker and a little bit of magic in the back three.”
Even most of New Zealand’s rugby analysts are predicting either the Boks or All Blacks to win the World Cup.
England’s most parochial naturally have gone with England, but reckon to win it they will have to beat both South Africa and New Zealand to do it.