at the ground

The players, teams , issues involved with the Rugby World Cup 2015

Springboks in Dublin

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The Springbok Rugby team is due to kick off their European tour with a tough Test against Ireland in Dublin.
The Springboks are undoubtedly favourites to beat the Irish. The Springbok’s being ranked at no2 in the I.R.B world rankings with Ireland ranked 5th.The Springbok’s defeated the mighty All Blacks the last time they played a Test. Ireland have had injuries to two of their best players in Cian Healy and Sean O’Brian plus the talismanic Brian O’Driscoll has retired from International rugby.
Whereas in the past this would mean that the South Africans would take it for granted they would win, under Heyneke Meyer this won’t be the case. Many times I have witnessed South African teams approach certain tests with a lack of understanding of how difficult the task ahead will be. Approaching it with arrogance , arrogance that they expect to win and the effort required to win being minimal. That approach has seen them lose matches they should have won and let down fans that don’t tolerate such lapses. Players  have been dropped because of this and coaches have been sacked.
I’d like to think the mentality is maturing. Players are more worldly than before. Many of the Springbok’s play for clubs in Europe. Jean de Villiers the SA skipper having spent a season with Munster. I think because they have seen and played rugby in the Northern Hemisphere they have built a new respect and most likely a greater admiration for the game in the respective 6 Nations countries.
Heyneke Meyer is lauded by his charges and many in the press for his analysing of teams and how they play. As far as I can tell he is the most passionate coach I have ever seen. After reading Victor Matfield’s biography and how highly he rated Heyneke, I feel that several of the senior players especially the Afrikaans players have his total respect.
Part of having a successful system is having a leader that the players will follow. Even if the system is flawed the strength comes from everyone working in unison and everyone believing in the system. I feel this is what is happening in the Springbok squad.
The factors the Springboks can not do anything about are the weather, the Irish squad , the spectators and the referee.
The weather is forecast to be mainly sunny on Saturday afternoon, with a Westerly wind and temperatures between 5-10 degrees Celsius. The humidity will be about 87%. These conditions are totally foreign to the average South African. The South Africans don’t like operating outside their comfort zone. Fortunately for them many of their squad have grown accustomed to these conditions as they are plying their trade in Europe. In the past as soon as it turns at all wet , it is due to be rainy in the morning in Dublin ,the Bok gameplan becomes one of kick ,kick ,kick.
The Irish squad is considerably different to the one that won the 6 nations tournament back in March. Most notably at centre the youngster from Connacht Robbie Henshaw starting at outside centre and, Kiwi, Jared Payne starting at inside centre. The celebrated Leinster midfield of the last 10-12 years is now consigned to the History books. Gordon D’Arcy on the comeback trail after an injury and B.O.D Brian O’Driscoll now having retired. For the Boks the squad they are due to face are an unknown threat but on the flipside are far less experienced than their counterparts.
Silencing the crowd and silencing them quickly will be crucial if the Boks want to end this game without a major mishap . The Irish crowd somehow seem to generate incredible passion in their Irish players lifting them to greater levels of performance. Last year when they faced the All Blacks they went out to a 20 point lead before the Kiwi’s clawed their way back into that match and sneaked a win after the hooter. The Irish can get stirred up alright and the Boks may not be able to achieve what the All Blacks did.
Romain Poite is a highly regarded referee in Europe but amongst South Africans he is notoriously remembered for yellow carding Bismarck Du Plessis for tackling Dan Carter to hard. In the same match Bismarck was yellow carded a second time which resulted in a red card and leaving his team to play the rest of the match with only 14 men. Which the South Africans feel cost them the game. Romain has since been in charge of a Springbok fixture without any problems. Bismarck is on the run on team on Saturday.
The South Africans have been to quick to make excuses in the past for what I felt were bad performances or incorrect gameplan or failure to take advantage of your opportunities. Excuses such as; player fatigue, biased referees, unfamiliar with conditions etc.
Heyneke has put a premium on conditioning plus as fate would have it many player’s provinces were knocked out of the Currie cup early allowing them a longer rest period.
South Africa is slowly starting to embrace the idea of balancing your gameplan between attack and defence. A vast improvement has been made in the decision making on attack which has worked hand in hand with alleviating the pressures of defence.
Their game is evolving. A guy like Willie le Roux who has flair has demonstrated that South Africans are able to construct tries . His threat as an attacker has caused opportunities for others who are not as closely marked as him as consequence of the concentrated effort to contain the Free State fullback.
Mostly I feel the South Africans are starting to fully understand what a professional attitude is all about. The South Africans love their rugby and are a passionate people. Something that has emerged in recent years is how much enjoyment they get playing the game. They seem to be a happier squad than in the past.
My prediction is it will be a close contest but South Africa will win by 10 points.


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