44 days of destiny

2007-09-04 13:50

Chris Hewitt

Yep, I ain't forgetting about 1995, Ellis Park and Stransky.

White's side is better, and that fact alone means that the next six weeks should see this nation truly captivated by the fortunes of the oval ball for the first time in over a decade.

There'll be no replacing the memories of Kitch Christie, Francois Pienaar and Madiba.

That was a tournament won by the many: the rainbow nation and a newly forged national identity.

Should White's Boks succeed similarly in Paris, however, it will be the triumph of the few.

Rather than 42 million, it will be down to 42, if you count the support staff and that will grant the next six weeks their own unique standing in Springbok folklore.

Of course, success isn't guaranteed, but there's no denying that we are on unprecedented ground: heading into a World Cup with expectation rather than hope is an altogether new sensation.

Okay enough dreaming, here's how the quest kicks-off:

High road

The next 10 days are critical.

Victories against Samoa and England in the opening two pool fixtures will guarantee the high road to the final.

With a likely quarter-final opponent in Wales, it really should be the bullet train to a Marseilles semi-final and two games from glory.

The opening mission that is Samoa is all about survival.

The islanders are blighted by injury, and after going down to a second-string Bok side already this year, will employ one tactic: spoil, spoil and spoil.

Whoever White picks, be it his first side or his second stringers, needs to play hard but clean.

Discipline will be key, and avoiding injury the ideal.

The Boks need to be clinical and ensure the match does not degenerate into a street-fight.

The encounter with England on September 14, a mere 10 days from now, represents an altogether different challenge.

It's a repeat of the crucial pool fixture from the 2003 World Cup, but four years have seen respective fortunes completely reversed.

England a sitting duck

Recent 50-point hidings to the Boks as well as a disappointing Six Nations and consecutive defeats to France in the build-up to the tournament, render Brian Ashton's England little more than a sitting duck.

A brave duck, a determined duck, but a duck nonetheless. A duck that, according to the Pommie press, is due to be roasted.

"Every player looks to slip the pass in the tackle, every support runner is coming hard and from depth," wrote Stuart Barnes of the Boks in the UK Sunday Times recently.

"Those six minutes (against Scotland, in which the Boks scored three tries) should have convinced England that defence and heart alone will not suffice."

"They have the necessary muscle and clout," echoed Matt Cleary in The Daily Telegraph, "as well as the devastating pace of Bryan Habana, to cause England all manner of problems when the teams meet in a crucial pool game."

White's Boks can expect exactly what Rudolf Straeuli's side attempted against the then-superior English back in 2003.

They'll attempt to dominate the collisions, hope their flyhalf keeps the game out of their half, and will live off the mistakes and penalties that the resultant frustration will cause.

Battering ram

This strategy requires as physical a side as Ashton can muster.

Forget Mike Catt at 12, think a battering ram like Andy Farrell. A massive and physical back row comprising Joe Worsley, Lawrence Dallaglio and Nick Easter is a possibility. All three have played No 8 for their country.

Composure will be the Boks' watchword.

They are a superior side, and should they play anywhere near their potential, should walk away from St Denis with the defining victory of the four year White era.

But that is next week's concern.

For now, the World Cup is here and how refreshing it is to say that from a Springbok perspective, for once it couldn't have come soon enough.

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