What is left of
With injuries before the start of the World Cup threatening to derail Wales and more injuries during the tournament leaving them struggling for quality replacements, South Africa go into the Twickenham quarter-final on Saturday as firm favourites. The Wales players’ inability to score points with 15 men against Australia’s 13 may be a pointer to their likely exit from RWC 2015, but after the Springboks ugly implosion against Japan and the magnificent Welsh performance against England, nothing is to be taken for granted.
Every team has its key players and the Springboks have a few too, but what has become abundantly clear over the last few weeks is that the most irreplaceable Bok is Fourie du Preez. The team’s performance is so indelibly linked to his skills and decision-making that accurate game-plan execution has become largely dependent on Du Preez. To keep progressing in the tournament the Boks will need Du Preez on the field and to keep Ruan Pienaar / Rudy Paige on the bench for as long as possible.
Has there been a more formidable lock pair at this World Cup than Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager? But since Heyneke Meyer is Victor Matfield’s most enthusiastic fan, the selection of the starting lock pair is no foregone conclusion.
Province’s sad saga
With players having to resort to protests and a strike narrowly averted, ongoing problems with salary payments to players and coaches, players and their agents seeking contracts elsewhere, no coach appointed to guide the Kings in Super Rugby, and no sponsor, problems mount in the Eastern Cape – and for SA Rugby and perhaps SANZAR too. Unless there is a substantial turnaround soon this sad saga bodes ill indeed for the Kings participation in Super Rugby 2016.
The Blue Bulls host Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and the Golden Lions are at home to the Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park in what should be two absorbing contests. The spotlight has been firmly on the World Cup and away from the Currie Cup for the last month, but both semi-finals are scheduled for when no RWC games are being played and should draw good TV audiences.