I had previously thought that the All Blacks might ask the question of some of their second tier players in this match, but they are clearly going all-out to win this and go down the right route. I cannot disagree with that approach, as it sets out a marker.
I’m confident that both teams will get through to the quarter-finals, probably against Ireland and Scotland, so the semifinal could be the potential grenade. The All Blacks and Springboks could meet again in the final, and the last time teams from the same pool met in the decider was in 2007 with South Africa and England.
There are some good match-ups, particularly in the packs, with Duane Vermeulen, playing his 50th Test match, up against All Blacks skipper Kieran Read. Malcolm Marx against Dane Coles at hooker is another juicy one.
I’m at Newport in Wales at the moment giving my thoughts on Rugby World Cup to one of the clubs here. Everyone is really excited about what lies ahead. There’s a lot of anticipation up here about not just the All Blacks-South Africa Test, but also Australia-Fiji, France-Argentina, Ireland-Scotland and England-Tonga. There’s a lot of talk about the Vunipola brothers playing against their father’s homeland.
I was chatting to Will Carling and Brian Moore the other night and they reckon just three teams are in the real reckoning to win the tournament – New Zealand, South Africa and England.
France can never be written off in Pool C as you don’t know what French team will turn up. We know that well from 1999 and 2007. The Pumas will be favoured, but if France fronts up, it could turn things on its head in Pool C. One of the tier one nations will be going home early in that pool.
Australia will need to nail a good performance this afternoon against Fiji in Sapporo or it will be all on in Pool D. The Wallabies need to take to the Fijian boys physically and that could be the Fijians’ downfall. Someone will land on a banana skin in this World Cup, though, and maybe it will be Australia this afternoon. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see that.
Ireland-Scotland tomorrow will determine the winner in Pool A and who meets the All Blacks or South Africa in the quarter-finals. The Irish are No 1 in the world on the rankings, but have they got their timing right with their ageing squad?
I note that the All Blacks have got a really big break of 11 days before their next game against Canada, so maybe they will leave it all out there on the pitch. That is a long break.
As for tonight’s clash, I would love the All Blacks to win because it sets down an early marker, but I have this nagging feeling that the Springboks pack, with Siya Kolisi back in harness and those who they will bring off the bench like ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira, Francois Louw and RG Snyman, might just have the edge on an All Blacks eight still without Brodie Retallick. The pressure will go on at set-piece and in the collisions.