White believes Wales can overcome 'untested' Springboks

Time of article published Oct 24, 2019

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TOKYO – World Cup-winning coach Jake White is concerned his native South Africa have had an overly straightforward run to their semi-final against Wales on Sunday.

"South Africa have had it easy so far. They will know that. They were always going to come second in their pool and then they got Japan," said White, who coached his country to the trophy in 2007.

White believes South Africa's preferred quarter-final opponents would have been France, who lost 20-19 in their encounter with Wales.

That said, Japan's striking performance at Rugby World Cup 2019 reminded him of the iconic appearance of Nelson Mandela, pictured above with White, in a Springboks jersey at the 1995 World Cup final. 

"I know in 1995 with Mandela we went up four or five notches as the home nation and it would have been the same for Japan.

"But if you'd told South Africa before the tournament that you'll get Japan in the quarter-finals of a World Cup, they'd have taken it.

"The only time they have been tested, they lost against New Zealand in the pool game so it's difficult to say what they have been like.

"They have been good enough to win the other games but the real test comes now."

Wales have won five of their last six meetings with the Springboks, with their one defeat coming in the RWC 2015 quarter-final. White believes Wales coach Warren Gatland has a steady hand on the tiller.

"I am sure 'Gats' will have been giving it to Wales this week, telling them they were close to going home and they had better get it right this weekend," said White, who has been coaching in Japan.

"The fact they were so pushed to beat France means they will get a massive amount of confidence from that.

"Looking at Dan Biggar's body language when they won, the way he reacted and got the crowd going. That's why I think Wales can do it.

"They've had South Africa's number for a while. What I'd fear as a coach is that Wales weren't great last weekend but they got over the line. That means a lot when you are looking for momentum."

As does having Alun Wyn Jones in your side.

White believes the second-row stalwart should rank alongside the likes of Richie McCaw, who won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015, Australia's Jon Eales (1991 and 1999), and Francois Pienaar, who skippered South Africa to glory in 1995.

"He is the real deal," White said. "There are people who are destined to pick up the World Cup. You look at McCaw, Pienaar and Eales. Now you look at Alun Wyn. I really believe he can do it.

"He is the most improved rugby player during the time they have played test rugby that I've ever seen.

"I don't think people foresaw what he would do for Welsh rugby when he started.

"But he has become one of the great Welsh players of all time with what he has achieved as a Lions captain and a Wales captain.

"I'd say it is far beyond what even he could have dreamed of. Like Aaron Smith with the All Blacks, and Johnny Sexton at Ireland, he's the heartbeat of Wales, and if he is there then Wales have got a chance."

Rugby World Cup