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Why Boks are the real World Cup favourites

OPINION: France and Ireland have garnered plenty of attention when the favourites tag has been thrown around leading up to this year’s World Cup, but those teams should be shaking in their boots with the Springboks on their side of the draw.

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You just can’t look past the defending champions when it is time to put your money on the line.

The Springboks will have a squad featuring a host of players that tasted success four years ago in Japan and that experience will be invaluable in France.

A key advantage the Boks will have over their opponents comes in the form of a brutal pack of forwards.

The other big teams in the tournament wish they had the depth and the power the Boks have in that area of the game.

In the front row, the Boks can field two incredible front rows in a match – one starting and one off the bench.

A front row of Frans Malherbe, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Retshegofaditswe Nche will be able to bully opponents in the first half before players like Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch land the killer blow in the second half.

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We have seen it before and Ireland and Scotland, who are in Pool B with the Boks, are going to be put under immense pressure in that area when they come up against the Boks.

Those players are also key in the Boks’ preferred weapon of choice, which is the maul.

Last year, teams found ways to disrupt the Boks when they got their maul going. However, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus know how fruitful it can be in tight games, especially at forcing teams to give away penalties.

A bit of fine-tuning and hard work behind the scenes should see the maul reap rewards for the Boks again and that spells danger for their upcoming opponents.

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The upcoming Rugby Championship will provide the Boks with an opportunity to start putting those pieces in place in the pack.

The Wallabies will be first up and they have been masters at disrupting the Boks’ power plays.

Eddie Jones will have a few tricks up his sleeve, but his team will allow the Boks an opportunity to test their problem-solving skills, which is something that could prove valuable by the time the World Cup comes around.

With a strong pack of forwards and a driving maul as the choice of attack, the Boks have also been labelled a predictable team on the field.

That stems from the fact that their backline has looked pedestrian on several occasions over the last few seasons.

A player like Kurt-Lee Arendse provides the Boks with some spark at the back and his seven tries in seven Tests last year showed how dangerous he could be if given enough ball.

More opportunities for Cheslin Kolbe with ball in hand could also give the Boks an extra edge in France.

Starting in the fullback position, he produced a man-of-the-match performance in Toulon’s Challenge Cup Final win over Glasgow in May.

The 29-year-old popped up everywhere in the backline in that match and he gave Glasgow’s defence problems when he was in that first-receiver role.

Damian Willemse is another player who provides versatility in the backline. He also showed what a great playmaker he can be with a starring role in a 27-13 win over England at Twickenham last year.

The Boks have a never-ending supply of power, pace and experience and that makes them an incredibly tough nut to crack at this year’s World Cup.

@rugby365com

 

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