By Andy Capostagno
With all the information from two rounds of play in this World Cup, the grand final should probably be between the South African A and B teams.
That can’t happen, of course, but it is a way to highlight the strength in depth of the defending champions and the shoddy efforts of their rivals.
On the evidence presented thus far, the only team these Springboks need to fear is Ireland, which is a happy coincidence, since the two teams will meet in Paris this coming Saturday.
Yet, Ireland have only met Romania (82-8) and Tonga (59-16), so the proof will be in the pudding served up at Stade de France.
From the viewpoint of the Boks, things couldn’t really be much better.
They conceded a grand total of three points in two games, giving their 33-man squad enough game time to keep the machine well oiled and on Monday 18 September they will be joined by Handre Pollard.
The replacement of an injured hooker (Malcolm Marx) with a flyhalf, will continue to rattle the cages of Bok critics who, recognising that they can’t compete with them on level ground, will find any way to undermine them.
Whether it be loading the bench with too many forwards, shining disco lights from the coaching seats, or switching playing roles among the squad, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus are innovating in ways that will be criticised today, copied tomorrow.
As for their rivals, the second round showed two things in particular.
Firstly, some big names (New Zealand, England, Australia) look like paper tigers if you scratch the surface.
Secondly, World Rugby has been criminally negligent in bringing on the second-tier nations.
Neither Fiji nor Uruguay are currently part of the Six Nations. However, Fiji’s dominant 22-15 win over Australia should have been by a greater margin. Uruguay were very competitive against the French 2nd team and Portugal was at a stage of development similar to Italy before they were invited to join the Six Nations Championship a couple of decades ago.
It gets said at every World Cup, but it is no less true; these sides should be properly backed by the governing body, not trotted out every four years for a month in the spotlight.
Pictured above: The Springboks in action against Romania.
Image source: Springboks