Match Preview: South Africa vs Italy
"Knock out rugby during the early pool stages of any tournament is not ideal for any team but that’s how The Boks will have to approach the last 2 pool games starting with their game against Italy on Friday - or is it?"
For me it is not the end of the world but referring back to my previous views and columns let`s not make any bones and beat around the bush with the enormity of the task at hand, not just for possibly winning the tournament but even making it through to the final on the 2nd of November.
When you lose your opening game of the tournament like The Boks did against the current world champion All Blacks, I am sure Rassie had to reassess the situation and tweaked his plans accordingly-again not a major train smash but change and different approach and in my book mostly to team selection..
In The Boks’ current situation and I don’t refer to this particular situation in a bad way, the one thing that would change for me personally, is team selection. I think it`s clear to see that the team selected by Bok management suggests that The Boks will not take Italy lightly at all and please remember that not so long ago The Boks lost to Italy in Italy. I know The Boks have come a long way as a team since then and again without sounding arrogant but The Boks and Italy should not be mentioned in the same rugby conversation, no disrespect though. When I say this, I merely refer to the fact that with our pool of rugby talent and tradition of rugby in our country, The Boks should always be in the top 3 positions of World Rugby Rankings and a loss to Italy should not even be discussed.
The Bok team selection see Bongi Mbonambi take the place of one of the best players, not only in South Africa but in the world, Malcolm Marx. I agree that he has worked really hard and played well and fully deserves his start, relegating Marx to the bench. The rest of the team and certainly the backline is pretty straightforward even though we would like to see a big improvement in Willie le Roux`s all round skill and play and I would love to see Willie at his best and hitting his straps come quarter final time.
With the Canada game coming up next week I don’t think The Boks can afford to play around with team selection anymore and if this is the best team selected to play Italy, and I believe Rassie should know his best team by now, the same team should be selected come Canada. With the team selection against Italy we see one or 2 changes to the starting line-up compared to the opening game and I don’t believe that the one game against Italy will be enough time for this team to get it 100% right. I would select the same starting team against Canada, give them 60 minutes and with the job hopefully done after 60 minutes, bring on the whole bench and give the reserves a run.
As always, I have to put my you know what on the line and predict a score. I have no doubt that The Boks will win and win by about 20 points. If The Boks win by any bigger margin, it would have been an extremely good performance and excellent result.
P.S. I have a former Team mate and good friend from my Boland playing days, Marius Goosen coaching the Italians along with head coach, Connor O Shea. Expect Marius to pass on some strong words of encouragement and inside info on The Boks to give the Italians some much needed motivation.