We are around 48 hours out from another Rugby World Cup semi-final, although unlike in 2015 when we faced a mighty All Blacks side, we’re going in as favourites.
Just to make sure you don’t butcher the timing of Sunday’s game, the Bok match kicks off at 11AM, whereas tomorrow’s semi-final between England and New Zealand kicks off at 10AM.
Eskom, don’t you dare.
Whilst Eddie Jones seems keen to try and rile the All Blacks with some mind games, Rassie Erasmus’ Boks have been quietly going about their business.
World Cup-winning coach Jake White reckons we could be in for a far tougher match than many fans are expecting, due in large part to our rather straightforward run thus far.
Here’s some of what he had to say via the World Cup’s official site:
“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 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.”
Sure, but at the risk of sounding like Naas Botha (and you really don’t want to venture into that domain too often), you can only beat the teams put in front of you.
Some poor refereeing aside, the Boks squandered a number of golden chances against the All Blacks in our opener, and have continued to do so throughout the tournament (cough, Willie le Roux, cough), but we’ve got the job done.
Back to Jake:
“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.”
Ah, there go the nerves again. Thanks, Jake.
The former Bok coach also had plenty of praise for Welsh skipper Alun Wyn Jones, saying he should rank alongside other greats like Richie McCaw, Jon Eales, and Francois Pienaar.
How about he wins a World Cup first? Jake reckons he might:
“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.”
Sunday, 11AM, Yokohama – showtime.
Please don’t judge those of us who start drinking at 10:30 on Sunday morning to soothe the nerves.
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