Smit: NZ favourites for World Cup

2011-07-25 00:00

NEW ZEALAND will be favourites to win the World Cup whatever happens beforehand as injury-hit South Africa travel to Wellington for this weekend’s Tri-Nations international title, Springboks skipper John Smit said yesterday.

Smit, South Africa’s most-capped Test captain and playing in his 103rd international against Australia on Saturday, saw positives for the Springboks going forward to September’s World Cup in New Zealand.

He said Saturday’s match has not been a blow to their confidence.

“It’s more of an experience for those guys who haven’t been out on this arena and just to feel the difference in speed and physicality,” Smit said.

“Every game you lose is a confidence blow, I suppose, but a lot of these guys wouldn’t have experienced Test rugby yet, some of them haven’t got more than 10 Test caps — if anything it will be invaluable to those guys who haven’t been around.”

The All Blacks, who swamped Fiji 60-14 in Dunedin on Friday, will be strongly fancied to win their fourth straight Test against the Springboks next Saturday, but that doesn’t diminish the Bok’s chances of defending their World Cup crown, Smit said.

Smit said, “I don’t think anyone is going to be able to take the favourites’ tag from New Zealand, no matter what happens in the Tri-Nations.

“So we have the pressure of arriving there as defending World Cup champions and we have to make sure we are the best prepared as possible.

“We have three more games to go in the Tri-Nations and lots to do and lots to prepare for.”

Smit said South Africa paid for lapses in concentration and turning over the ball to the Wallabies, but will learn from the experience allied to the return of their injured big names for their home Tri-Nations Tests next month.

“What I enjoyed about our younger side was that they chased to the death.

“There were tries going begging out there for the Wallabies and there was a lot of guts chasing to make sure it didn’t happen, and they are the things we can draw upon,” he added.

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