Monday, May 14, 2007

They're the whole Boks and dice: Kiss (

Rupert Guinness
Monday, May 14, 2007

THE Springboks deserve an immediate upgrade in World Cup reckoning from solid chances to major contenders.
So says former Springboks defence and current NSW Waratahs assistant coach Les Kiss after watching the Sharks and Bulls win their Super 14 semi-finals on the weekend to set up the first all-South African final in Durban on Saturday.
The mantra may be that Super 14 form does not correlate to Tests. And true, the semi-final losses by the two New Zealand sides - the Blues to the Sharks and Crusaders to the Bulls - may have been influenced by their All Blacks being underprepared after being rested half the season for the World Cup.
However, Kiss believes South African rugby has shown enough in the Super 14 to indicate the Springboks are set to re-emerge as the force they were when they won the 2004 and 1998 Tri-Nations, and 1995 World Cup at home.
"If you took me back six or eight months ago, I would have said they wouldn't be much more than a quarter or semi [final hope]," said Kiss who was Springboks defensive coach in 2001 under Harry Viljoen when they won 11 Tests.
"Now they are the team that I think can really surprise at the World Cup."
But Kiss says to achieve that the Springboks need to:
* Be willing to play an expansive game, which he says they have shown the capacity for this Super 14 season;
* Hold on to their traditional game strength - the use of bulk up front and a penchant for 10-man kicking rugby;
* Select the right squad, which is easier said than done in South Africa, as shown by Bulls fullback Derrick Hougaard's omission from the 46-man Springbok squad named on Saturday night after he scored all 27 points for his side in the semi-final.
"They can expand the game, but the one thing they can't lose is their traditional strength," said Kiss, adding: "And that is their scavenging forward play, their driving game, their lineout, which is a key difference with Victor Matfield in it.
"The Bulls and Sharks have shown that they can impose those strengths. They have the forwards power, the 10-man rugby with the kicking game. But they have a good counterattack, too. If they can do that they will have a more complete game that they can unleash on the World Cup later this year."
After the Sharks beat the Blues 34-18 and the Bulls defeated the Crusaders 27-12, talk of World Cup supremacy was soon heard coming from South African lips.
"It's created a huge hype, vibe and excitement about rugby," said Sharks and Springboks captain John Smit, whose top-of-the-table side will host the final. "It's great having two South African teams … the trophy can't go anywhere else."
On what that means for South Africa's World Cup hopes, Smit said: "If we can put 22, 25 guys together and they click and they work, they can beat anyone."
Smit, his Sharks teammates and the Bulls have plenty on their plate with the challenge of becoming South Africa's first Super 12 or 14 winners.
The semi-finals were won in contrasting style. The Sharks won first at ABSA Stadium in Durban before a capacity 52,000-strong crowd by three-tries-to-two.
Their win came despite losing a hard-earned lead at the 52nd minute for 16 minutes when Blues No.10 Isa Nacewa matched winger Rudi Wulf's five-pointer at the 45th minute to leave the score 18-14 in the Blues' favour.
That the Sharks allowed the Blues back in as they did might be a concern for coach Dick Muir when the stakes are higher this Saturday. But their rally to shut down the game showed strength and calm under pressure. The strong Sharks scrum, lineout and mauling augurs well for their hopes of matching - if not getting an edge on - the traditional mighty Bulls pack.
The Bulls, meanwhile, had to rely on the boot of Hougaard for their points from eight penalty kicks and a drop goal before a 50,000-crowd at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. While a try-less affair, it was a torrid test of defences indicating the Bulls will take some beating if they are to surrender ascendancy to the Sharks.


CROWD: 50,000.
Tries: J Muller, B James,
W Murray.
Goals: P Montgomery (2c, 4p),
B James (1fg).
Tries: R Wulf, I Nacewa.
Goals: I Nacewa (1c, 2p).

CROWD: 53,000.
Tries: Nil.
Goals: D Hougaard (8p, 1fg).
Tries: Nil.
Goals: D Carter (4p).

Sharks v Bulls at ABSA Stadium,
Durban, RSA(11.00pm)

1 comment:

Dulce said...

Thanks for writing this.