Wales could be the team to beat in the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Koji Sasahara/AP Photo
Question: Okay, when has Scotland ever been so important to the Springboks?

Answer: This World Cup in Japan.

Ireland’s stunning defeat against Japan over the weekend brought to life the World Cup. A tournament of unpredictability was awakened.

I have always felt the Springboks to be good enough to beat Ireland at this World Cup. Honestly, Wales scare me more than Ireland when it comes to the Boks. My confidence with Ireland comes from my belief that they should never have been ranked No 1 in the world and because Bok coach Rassie Erasmus knows the Irish style of play.

Erasmus coached Munster for two seasons and the core of the Irish squad comes from Munster. He knows the players’ psyche and he understands Ireland coach Joe Schmidt because he worked in the Irish system. Erasmus will want to play the Irish in the quarter-finals. He will because he knows his team is good enough to beat them.

He would not necessarily be concerned about playing Japan or Scotland, but that is not the issue. It is the semi-finals he would be eyeing and Wales loom the largest for the Boks.

There is something about the Welsh versus Bok rivalry at the moment that is uncomfortable. Allister Coetzee’s Boks lost to Wales in Cardiff in 2017 and 2018. Erasmus’ Boks have lost to Wales twice. Erasmus’ first defeat to Wales in Washington DC in 2018 was a second-string Bok team versus a second-string Welsh team. The outcome was decided in the last minute. Don’t read anything into this match.

The Test in Cardiff at the end of last year was the best of South Africa against the best of Wales and Wales won easily. They are a team to avoid at this World Cup for SA. Other teams may knock over Wales, but I am not so sure the Boks can.

SA really do want to take on Ireland in the last eight and hedge their bets for a probable England versus New Zealand semi-final. The style of Bok play speaks to being comfortable against the All Blacks or England. I am not convinced it speaks to Wales.

I thought Wales were outstanding against Australia in the first 40 minutes on Sunday. Australia struck back in the second half and dominated the first 30 minutes of that period, but Wales showed enough character in the last 10 minutes to close out the game. It was a very important result because of where it puts each team in the playoffs.

New Zealand and England will be tough in any game, but there is something about Wales currently that I would want to avoid if I was Erasmus.

Come on Scotland, knock over Japan and let the Boks’ World Cup hunt stay on course.

On a personal note, it is worth noting that my favourite rugby player Sonny Bill Williams plays his 16th successive World Cup game against Canada today. Williams polarizes opinion, but he is a player who has transformed the game as much as Jonah Lomu did and his World Cup record supports this view.

@mark_keohane


The Star

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