Can Boks go all the way – why not?

2015-10-07 06:00

TODAY after they’ve accomplished the relatively easy (hopefully) task of winning the last of their Pool B World Cup matches against USA, South Africa will be gearing up for the true business end of the competition.

In their best performance of the tournament so far last Saturday the Springboks dismissed with relative ease the challenge of Scotland in this penultimate round of pool matches.

After taking a while to settle into rhythm and exert their authority, it was pretty much one-way traffic, as new captain, Fourie du Preez, guided his team with silky aplomb to their 34-16 win. It was at times a performance that contained everything – relentless confrontation up front, hard running and mostly slick passing, except for a gift interception try for the Scots.

Several of the team’s individuals seemed to have saved their best for this match at St James’ Park in Newcastle – none more so than the new captain himself – while typically Bryan Habana saved his best for last, a dazzling touchdown in injury time that brought down the curtain on yet another star-studded performance by arguably world rugby’s finest wing.

Overall there was grand stuff from the likes of Lood de Jager on attack, defence and his lineout work; fellow-lock, Eben Etzebeth, was right up there too. Indeed, so was the whole pack, with Bismarck du Plessis returning to near his best.

Among the backs Handre Pollard, after this display would seem to be set for even greater things after a near immaculate performance – one that was neatly underlined by a coolly taken drop-goal that kept the Bok engine in overdrive. Much the same could be said of the centre-pairing of youngsters, Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.

At 20-3 at halftime, it looked as though the Scots might be in for a hiding. To their credit they fought back and when Jannie du Plessis was sin-binned for a dangerous shoulder charge, it seemed the Scots might hit back hard. But Du Preez’s team wasn’t about to let that happen. Can the Boks go all the way? At this rate, why not?

In the matches ahead – as they get tougher – the South Africans will need to tighten up on discipline. Good, solid forward though he is, the reckless shoulder-charge that landed Jannie du Plessis in the sin-bin, was totally unnecessary.

Should the green-and-gold jerseyed heroes take South African all the way to a third World Cup triumph, coach Heyneke Meyer most certainly will be in line to accept an already offered further term of office. But should that not come to pass, the powers-that-be might take a long hard look at Lions coach, Johann Ackermann, as a likely candidate. One of the hard men of the Springbok scrum in his prime, it seemed his career might be blighted by charges of off-the-field misdemeanours. But facing up to the challenge of becoming no more than a flash in the pan as a coach, Ackermann has emerged as a new man and much respected coach at the not-so-fashionable Lions.

It wasn’t on TV but Ackermann’s Lions produced a fine 62-32 drubbing of Western Province at Ellis Park last week to sweep to the top of the Currie Cup log. There is something about the genial Ackermann that seems to bring out the best in players. They certainly respond to his forthright personality and deep knowledge of the game

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