Preview: The Rugby Championship 2014 - South Africa
The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend and we decided to take a look at the Springboks chances in this year's tournament.
This year's tournament is going to be a good one, with New Zealand in electric form, a resurgent Australian side and a pack of Argentinians that are eager to prove themselves. What about the South Africans though?
Well, they're not in the best shape. A few injuries have hampered the squad this year like Victor Matfield who will miss at least the first test. Other huge names missing from the team sheet due to injury or involvement over seas include, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Arno Botha, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez, JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger.
One of their weaknesses may be in the loose where New Zealand through the likes of McCaw and Read will punish the Boks. The selection of ageing Matfield and Botha could be also be questioned as this could be a great opportunity to battle harden young talent before the world cup next year.
They are strong in the front row which will be a key battle against the Aussies. Being put on the front foot will allow them to unleash their powerful attacking back line lead by newly fit Jean de Villiers.
How will they do?
If we were to think with our head, we would say third. However this competition usually throws up a few shocks so let not rule anything out just yet. If they can manage to neutralise the All Blacks back row it should just turn into a shoot out between the Boks and the Kiwis back three, which we would love.
The Aussies front row could be where the South Africans should target. If they win that battle and put the back-line on the back foot, the likes of Israel Folau will have a huge task to try and break the line.
Who to watch:
Willie le Roux, the cheetahs winger/full back, is our pick of the bunch. He's good under the high ball, talented footballer and he's capable of slicing through back-lines like a scalpel. The most impressive facet of his play is his awareness as a playmaker. He can make beautiful breaks and instead of being selfish can put team-mates through gaps for key scores.
Junior World player of the year Handre Pollard will join the squad on the back of the Boks' runner-up finish this year in the Junior World Championship. The Bulls' out half could make an interesting partnership in the half backs with Ruan Pienaar and we will watch closely to see how he will adapt to the pressure of test match rugby.
Did you know?
Schalk Burger and JP Pietersen were not even consider by coach Heyneke Mayer for for their involvment oversees in Japan. He did, however, select Ruan Pienaar who plies his trade for Ulster.