ON THE BRINK: LONDON GAME BREAKERS

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 08:41
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EXCLUSIVE: ROB BRINK CONTINUES THE EXPEDITION TO WORLD CUP 2015, LOOKING AT WHAT AWAITS THE BOKS AT TWICKENHAM AND GLANCES BACK AT DUBLIN.

There were many questions raised after last week's loss to Ireland, questions the Springboks will hope to answer in an even more important match at Twickenham on Saturday.

England, as the host nation of World Cup 2015, will be determined to make a statement. It is important that they do!

If we looks at the history of the World Cup, we will see how well the host nation has done in past tournaments.

In 1999, when Wales and England hosted it jointly, the four semifinalists were Australia (eventual winners), France (runners-up), South Africa (third) and New Zealand. The only other time the hosts did not play in the Final was 2007 - when the Springboks beat England in the Paris Final, with Argentina overcoming hosts France in the third-place play-off.

England have to be serious contenders for the Webb Ellis Cup.

They seem to have a balanced side and appear to be sticking to a nucleus of players, with what seems to be a very stable set-up in terms of coaching and management.

Do they have game breakers?

Nothing like what the Boks have got. However, they work as a collective unit, even with no real stars, and there's something to be said for that.

I'm not seeing a rampaging Eben Etzebeth at the moment and I hope he hits form soon, because the Boks need that in a big way. The reason is, at 37 Victor Matfield has lost a bit of his 'krag' and we don't have Willem Alberts giving us that all important momentum close in the collision areas.

It's great to see the Schalk Burger starting a big game again!

There's no player that I have ever seen who can match him for pure rugby spirit - he plays like a man possessed and it's great to watch. This is his biggest Test since his return to the international fold and he will know that. Will he have a big impact on this game?  I hope so! He has 'matured' with time and his reckless approach (which resulted in a few slipped high tackles in the past) is slightly less evident these days. Also, he has adapted his game with the passing of time.

It's that spirit that inspires others around him during the 80 minutes and that's exactly why he was the first name on Jake White's team sheet in 2007 (excluding those the games where he was suspended)

It's always a good move to select combinations and we will learn a lot from the performance of Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach on Saturday. I really like Lambie's game, because he very seldom makes a mistake. I just hope he has had enough rugger coming off a long-term injury.

The game against England will enable us to genuinely ascertain where we are in terms of our first-phase play, because I don't think Ireland are world beaters in this area.

What you don't want to do is give England that slight mental edge just a year away from the RWC, so let's hope we deliver a good performance, which an emphasis on not making mistakes.

* Speaking of Ireland, how does a side who is completely outplayed in first-phase play end up winning convincingly?

Answers:
1. The Boks made many mistakes and most of them were unforced mistakes/errors.
2. Where were most of the mistakes made? You can refer to the individual positions that I highlighted in my previous column.
3. It amazes me how the leadership on the field opt for high-risk possibility of scoring five points (maybe seven points) as opposed to taking a given three points. Take the three points and then guess what? Ireland kick the ball back to you and you have possession and you begin again.
4. It's Test-match rugby and you have to take every point you can, unless there is a difference of 15 points (a difference of more than two converted tries), then you opt for the high-risk drive and try option.
5. Jean de Villiers has shown an inclination to back the line-out and driving maul, as opposed to taking the three points in the past, but I think it's not a sensible option.
6. This is especially true when you are six points down. Get even or go ahead and you will see the confidence and mindset of the opposition waiver slightly. That's what we failed to do. It's 101 stuff.

The talk is all about how well Ireland played. Yes they did play extremely well and their efforts didn't surprise me.

However, how do you lose to a team ...
1. Who have had a week to prepare?
2. Fielding a brand new midfield combination with hardly any Test caps?
3. Who get dominated in first-phase play?

PS: I think some of the readers might not understand the concept of this column. It's about how to win a World Cup and not about running from just about everywhere at altitude against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, with a lot less pressure than World Cup play-off match. I think Willie Le Roux is a fantastic player and we all really enjoy watching him play. However, I must ask: Is he the man for a WC high-pressure game? And that's the beauty of the game, everyone has their own answer and can justify the merits of such an answer.

* Robby Brink, a member of the victorious 1995 Springbok World Cup squad, is a the former Western Province and Stormers loose forward, who also had a stint with Irish province Ulster.

He writes exclusively for @rugby365com

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