Who has RWC edge?

Dan Retief

“Last man standing” is a phrase often associated with the Rugby World Cup, now just over four months away, but this year that could hold truer than in any of the previous eight tournaments.

Injuries are always a concern and the implication is that the team which has the fewest will be best placed at the end of a gruelling six weeks – especially the last three weekends of knockout play.

By common consensus, the 2019 World Cup is going to be the tightest yet because of a resurgence of northern hemisphere nations. The depth of a squad, rather than the number of star players, will be decisive.

Whereas previous tournaments tended to hinge on which of South Africa and Australia, and perhaps one of England, France, Ireland, Scotland or Wales, would challenge New Zealand, this year all these countries, plus Argentina, will fancy their chances of going all the way.

The timing of the tournament from September 20 to November 2 has created a situation where there will almost be a World Cup before the World Cup involving the southern and northern hemispheres.

On the face of it “North” would appear to have the better of it with less intense fixtures than “South” who will have to complete the Super Rugby tournament and the Rugby Championship before heading for Japan.

Super Rugby, depending on how far a team goes, ends on July 6; the Rugby Championship starts on July 20 (SA vs Australia at Ellis Park) and ends on August 10; and the World Cup gets underway on September 20 (SA vs New Zealand on September 21).

A number of warm-up matches have been added and the Springboks and the All Blacks would appear to have the most sapping schedule, both in matches and flying time, before that big opening fixture between the two.

South Africa’s programme in the Rugby Championship includes long flights to Wellington and Argentina plus additional matches against the Pumas (in Johannesburg) and an excursion to Japan to play the home side in a warm-up game on September 6, intended to rekindle the joy and fervour of the upset of the 2015 tournament.

In all probability the Boks will then return home to put the finishing touches to their preparation and doubtless coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping that experiencing the “foreignness” ahead of the tournament will help his team to settle in more quickly when they return to Japan.

The All Blacks will have to fly to Buenos Aires, back to Wellington (to play the Boks) and then to Perth for their Rugby Championship game. Their one warm-up game will be against Tonga in Hamilton on September 7.

With the Six Nations having ended in March the northern hemisphere teams have arranged a number of warm-ups to stay in shape, including some testing home-and-away fixtures.

Impressive Six Nations champions Wales are cock-a-hoop having achieved the Grand Slam and coach Warren Gatland has arranged for his men to take on England (home and away) and Ireland to keep them sharp.

Apart from the Welsh, Eddie Jones’ England will also have matches against the Barbarians, Ireland and Italy while Scotland and France have arranged a double header with Georgia and Italy also thrown into the mix.

The casualty rate these days is such that there “will” be injuries rather than there “might” be and the coaches will be crossing their fingers that these will not strip them of a key player such as an Alun Wyn Jones for Wales or a Johnny Sexton for Ireland.

The next four months will fly by. Only time will tell whether the South’s more intense programme with trophies at stake, including a lot of travel, will be more advantageous than the practice matches lined up for the North.

A run of injuries could wreck all the best laid plans but once the World Cup starts there will be no room for lamenting poor luck, and that’s why the All Blacks still loom as favourites. They have the greatest depth and thus the best chance of realising Jake White’s oft-repeated mantra on the way to winning the Webb Ellis Cup in Paris in 2007; “all you have to do to win the Cup is win seven matches in a row.”

- Dan Retief

Let's chat

  • Johan

    It has to be New Zealand, they could probably field a B-team that would still reach the finals.

    I was watching a YouTube video of a New Zealander that picked a “uncapped” NZ team.

    There are some great players, that haven’t even been capped yet and think what this team would look like if you include capped players that isn’t currently first choice, Mo’unga for example!

    With that type of depth they have to be the favourites by miles.

    While Ireland, Wales and even England have made massive strides, a motivated NZ team (with a lot more to play for than just an end of year tour) will be almost unstoppable.

    To stand a slight chance, we have to go the soccer route: pick your country’s best players, na matter where they ply their trade. The regulation to pick less players from overseas is not keeping them in SA in anyway and who can say no to a R20 000 000 a year paycheck??


  • Barry

    I would agree with Johan on this one. At present we have too many players in the frame based on last years reputation. Experience is important, but you can’t win with a reputation, you need players that are in form and passionately interested!!

    I will be watching the selections for the Championship with great interest to see whether Erasmus in fact rewards performance or not. I fear he will stick with most of the squad from the EOYT!

    Nominations for both Pro14 and UK championships are out. Do you need any better guidance to player form? Amongst this list Marcel Coetzee Cobus Reinach, WP Nel and more!

  • John Comyn

    Never a truer word written – ask Mallett. Dumping Teichmann for an injured Skinstad probably cost him the WC. If there is even a hint of an injury don’t send the player. Go the Jake White route and write off the rugby championship and use it to fine tune combinations etc. Use overseas players for the tournament as a trail. I have complete trust in Rassie. He knows what he is doing and has had a plan for a long time now.

    • Barry

      Sure you are John, because you support Province, but the rest of the country would prefer a more even hand with a reward for those that are performing week after week. Mr Erasmus should not underestimate the rumble!

      • John Comyn

        Who exactly are you talking about Barry. I don’t see any SA sides performing so who are these players performing on a consistent basis?

  • boyo

    how many SA players are the best or close to the best in their positions in the world?

    1) Marx

    Maybe beast/kitschoff

    That is why we wont win the WC we don’t have great players.

    • Barry

      Anyone of Dan Du Preez or Marcel Coetzee edge Kieran Read, our locks are there or there abouts, similarly our wings. Not all bad news!

      • boyo

        I actually maybe forgot Vermuelen as a WC player. Marcel is a WC player but not even in the extended thinking. I like Dan but not in reads class yet

      • Whynger

        Our wings are rookies in international terms. Apart from possibly Nkosi, they aren’t really speedsters either. Our locks are good, but not in the way that they should be. A lock should be the engine of the pack. Our locks don’t hit enough rucks and mauls to be considered the best. They seem to be very prominent outside of the tight loose. That means that the real graft has to be done either by someone else or not at all. Could that be why our scrumhalves don’t seem to have the time that the Kiwi, Irish, English or Welsh scrumhalves have (maybe they are just rank bad)? As for Du Preez or Coetzee v Reid: I think you are delusional. Stats never tell the whole story. You ignore elements that every great player has: Presence and BMT.

        • Dean Bright

          Ask the French what they think of Kolbe and the English about Reinach and Faf. No speedsters? Mapimpi, Dyantyi and Kolbe are speedsters. Dyantyi won young player of the year last year. Serfontein and Pollard were the best backline players in the World when they played age group rugby. I wouldn’t write off our players so easily. In the forwards, our locks on form would easily make a World’s best team. Vermeulen is right up there and so is Beast. How many other props can boast over 100 caps. Kitshoff smashed everyone in the scrum last year at international level. We have about 400 players contracted overseas and they are doing very well. Reinach top try scorer. The Irish call Marcell one of their own. Ackermann was brilliant for Gloucester this season. Mostert made the team of the year. We have plenty of players who are there abouts. We need to be more consistent because when it comes to player resources, we have more than any of the Northern Hemisphere teams. Only the AB’s boast more talent.

          • Whynger

            A bit after the fact, I know, but Dyanti was left for dead by Johnny May, just over a year ago. The others are just about apace with him. Look, they are good players, no doubt, but they are just run of the mill international wings. Jacob Stockdale of Ireland is quicker and 1.95m tall. So is Rieko Ioane. Really quick. George North will match them for pace and run over them. I like Nkosi, because he can match the rest for pace and he has power to boot. A speedster is someone like Bryan Habana. The fact that he was a mere 1.8m and 85kg did not matter, because he could outrun them all. The current crop are his size and a lot slower. They are not speedsters. They are just reasonably fast. And they have to tackle players who outweigh them and can outrun them. They will do a job and finish good moves, but won’t be game breakers.

            As for Kolbe: fantastic feet, a joy to watch, and brilliant for Toulouse in the French Top 14 CLUB competition. I emphasize the fact that it is a club competition, where he does not have to match the best of the best for seven games in a row, to become world champion. I want him in the side. He will bring something more to the game than can be found among the local wings, but he is not a world beater.

            I kept missing Ackermn on the team sheets. He was either injured a lot, or he was not really as brilliant as you say. A brilliant player would pay most of the games, not?

            The Irish also worship CJ Stander and he is one of their own, but he was put on his backside by the Hulk, playing at inside centre for England. Ulster worshiped Ruan Pienaar as well, who played for them for eight years and was sorely missed this year. I liked him and he was very effective in the European CLUB competitions, but most Springbok fans could not stand him. Marcell is a No 6 flanker (in international terms). He is not a seven or an eight. He is not super fast, like Kwagga or super strong like Vermeulen. Or over 2m tall like Du Toit. He is a very good club loose forward in Europe. He is not exceptional enough to drop your current number 6, who is also, coincidentally, your first black Springbok Captain. Go figure.

            Our locks are very good. If they apply themselves and do more of the things that locks are supposed to do as their FIRST task, we will have the best six locks in the world. At 1.95m, I am afraid Mostert is not one of them. He is only weighs in at less than 110kg. We have 120kg locks at 2.08m tall, who are as industrious. Some are actually playing on the flank.

            We have a couple of very good loosehead props, but they really failed to dominate as expected. Is it possibly because our tightheads were generally very poor. I had my eye on Wilco Louw, who showed promise over the previous two seasons, but did not step up this year. He really was our only hope. Malherbe is a stodgy anchor, who seldom moves the scrum forward. The rest of them are at best average retreaded looseheads, who won’t dominate a club loosehead who plies his trade in Europe. Maybe Vincent Koch is the solution.

            We can field a good side, but so can six other nations. We don’t have many No 1’s, 2’s or maybe even 5’s in the different positions. One or two sides out there have a number of players vying for those spots.

          • Frans

            The Boks has the fastest speedsters in the likes of Senatla, Specmann but they are never used in a game. They stand on the sideline getting cold. Tell you this if only and only if our 10 can see this and read the game put the ball in an open space these guys wil be there FIRST and score time after time again but no we want to run into the biggest opposition player we can see on the pitch and no wonder we have so many injuries.

          • Dean Bright

            Also, take a look at the Pro14. We have 3 out of the top 5 try scorers in that league. Maxwane just equalled the record for most tries scored in a season. The Pro 14 has the best Irish, Welsh and Scottish teams and players in it.

  • Dean Bright

    Argentina don’t stand a chance of going all the way, let’s be realistic. Do you honestly see Argentina, France, Scotland or Australia winning the World Cup?

  • Nick

    Combine the high flying Boks playing in the North with the talent playing Super Rugby, and you can get a VERY good 23 on the pitch. We have the coaching intelligence to do this.

    Boks are about 10/1 right now. Worth a punt for sure.

    • Al

      Not sure it matters who we select. It’s guaranteed that a NH side will win this World Cup. I base this purely on the fact that…….by far the most referees for the World Cup come from up north…

  • Frans

    You can say just what you want and I respect that but let me tel you in no uncertain terms – The Webb Ellis Cup of 2019 RWC is going North this time and I have my reasons. It wil not be the best team or favourite. North is the key word. It will be on the same basis as the RWC 2011 final in Auckland NZ when the All blacks played the France in the final. In that final there is no doubts AT ALL the French was the better team on the pitch that day and should have won but…………by the way I can proof my comment.

  • Frans

    Answer to the question who has the edge? Jones.

  • Raymond

    Any one of of NZ, SA, England and Wales can win the trophy. France can’t win 7 in a row, Ireland has slumped and the Aussies are rubbish at the moment. Argentina play beautifully but their discipline will go in the crunch games. SA win when they can bully the other teams, but recently we’ve lost the bully fights to Wales, England and with one exception NZ. So while my heart hopes for SA, I would cheer for Wales too. God forbid England win, and I hope it’s not NZ again. In an ideal world I’d see a Wales vs SA final.

  • Mark

    I bet all you blokes who have written off the Boks will be crowing here if the Boks do manage to pull it off. Remember anything can happen on the day, 1 intercept, 1 undeserving Red Card….and Bang, the whole match and tournament is turned on it’s head.

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