With 22 days to go before the start of the Rugby World Cup in England, Benedict Chanakira looks at Pool B of the World Cup which include the Springboks.
By: Benedict Chanakira (BC)
The group which is quite complex. The Samoans have the unknown factor, with the slanders managing to push the springboks all the way last World Cup.
There will be expectation the South Africans win the group. They are two time winners and will be able to match up and beat their opponents. South Africa are going to be wary of Samoa more than the Scots after they managed to be pushed all the way by the side.
The US and Japan are likely to face off each other for the elusive group win, while the Scotland-Samoa game will decide who makes the final 8.
South Africa- One of the favourites of the tournament. Don’t talk about the form guide, when you get into the heat of the World Cup, very few survive. The big question is; will the blend between the old and young players be enough to see the 2007 Champions go over the line again and claim their third World Cup?
No side in the World is better suited to Northern hemisphere conditions than the Springboks’ game which will need to be executed accurately. Under Meyer the Springboks have no managed to win the Rugby Championship and will do well to show their hand in the early stages. It is a fairly winnable group on paper.
However the game is not played on paper and the Boks will be hoping they do not suffer any injuries against the physical Samoans who they faced in 2011 and pushed them all the way. The most significant thing is the trust within the group is very strong, the reliance and hope that Fourie du Preez pulls through is strong.
From what I have seen, heard and had explained by an inside source means the legend number 9 will come out and deliver.
Key Player- Willie le roux. The mercurial Sharks player has the opportunity to play in the World Cup. He will be the key factor for the Springboks in attack and has managed to rescue them on several occasions in the dreaded NH conditions.
Look back to a clash against Scotland which so the man literally, singlehandedly dismantle the Scottish. Now Willie can be one of two things, brilliant on the day or woeful . Over to you Willie!
The big question- How will the Meyer’s four year tenure be defined? A high percentage and what else?
Samoa- They pride themselves in the physical aspect of the game of rugby. Samoa are also hard defenders with an aspect of the unorthodox attack.
Samoa have the ability to upset and with the Scottish and South Africans standing in their path this group could turn up being a lively fight. With this said they struggle to impose themselves over 80 minutes.
The Samoans have had a very good preparation and will be confident in their attack but if any of their opponents need any confidence, they must look at how Fiji exposed them in the Pacific Nations Cup!
Key Player- Tim Nanai-Williams. The Chiefs man will be one to watch. If there is any space and this man gets the ball it could be trouble for the opposition. With the size, power and speed in their side Tim’s added intelligence will bolster the side remarkably!
The big question- Will they prevail against the South Africans and Scottish?
Scotland- Inconsistent. The Scots have managed to be competitive and in most occasions but they have nothing to show for it. On any day with all their players fit the side can be counted.
They have a very balanced pack and with the additions of WP Nel and Josh Strauss who will add much needed quality and nous. Vern Cotter has added some quality to the side and it is paramount the Scots avoid the shame of 2011 and miss out on the quarter finals.
They have the ability to surprise and if anything they have been doing in their warm up games is to be taken seriously; one will realise on a good day a full strength Scotland side could topple any of the teams in this group. They will need to beat South Africa or Samoa. Their bruising loose forwards could be the first step towards that as they continue to show their variety!
Key player- Dave Denton. The versatile loose forward will be keen to catch up on missed games. Scotland have massive depth in the loose forward department and with Denton amongst their ranks will do well to utilise the big ball carrier and exceptional defender who has a knack for big hits occasionally.
The big question- Can they be consistent?
What do they say? Alex Shaw; – ‘Five losses from five games in the Six Nations was a big blow to a Scottish side which seemed to be improving. They are unlikely to challenge South Africa in Pool B and will probably face off with Samoa for the runners up spot and a place in the quarter-finals.
That match could prove one of the most compelling at the RWC, but regardless of the outcome, this competition could be seen as one for development for Scotland, especially with young talents like Jonny Gray and Rob Harley in the squad.’
Japan- Will they have any Japanese born players? The Japanese league is flooding with International stars and I do doubt the quality of play there on occasion as time and time again stars return to Super Rugby or Test rugby a bit off the pace. It is believed to improve players and very few players have been proof of that.
The Japanese continue to improve and will also look to target the American game for a win. The benefit of having a Super rugby winner among their ranks in the form of Fumiaka Tanaka will help their case. Michael Leitch also has some experience playing for the Chiefs in Super rugby and also having a starring role.
Japanese players will be well conditioned and will have the fight right to the end. They showed impressive morale and silky backline play in 2011. They should be able to continue their preparations towards Rugby World Cup 2019 in this World Cup.
Key Player- Fumiaka Tanaka. Having the privilege to play with the best scrumhalf in the world will certainly improve the Japanese half back. Quick service, darting runs and despite being dim unitive Tanaka boasts a great pass and a sharp eye. The Japanese team will be looking to the man for some magic.
The big question- Will they be able to impose themselves physically?
USA- The Eagles are slowly getting the hang of the game. It is a great sight to see sides like New Zealand, England and Australia looking to tour and play a few games in the US.
The more exposure they receive, the more they will adapt and get used to the intensity. They face a huge task to make the quarter final but will do well to collect a win. They will probably focus on the clash against Japan who are fast improving.
Key Player- Chris Wyles. The Saracens player will be the focal point of the American attack. Their most capped full back he brings a wealth of experience to the Eagles. The Connecticut born player is a try machine as he managed to star for Saracens last season crossing the white wash 13 times.
The big question- Does Todd Clever still have what it takes to dominate?
South Africa & Scotland to progress (Samoa could make me regret this.)