Inside the Office, where we bring you the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics. Join the conversation by tweeting us @sarugbymag.
This week we discuss the Jerome Garces’ appointment to ref the Springboks, Rassie’s selections and England vs the All Blacks.
Fans woke up to the news that Jerome Garces will ref the Springboks vs Wales – is the concern justified?
Craig Lewis, editor (@craigolewis): He was in charge of our first game of the tournament, the loss to New Zealand … yes, there were some concerns around the officiating at the breakdown and scrums in particular – there often is. But that game was lost because of mistakes the Boks made rather than it hinging on something Garces did or didn’t do. Our record under him is terrible but if you look back at other games, you’ll find they were lost because of our own undoing.
It’s quite the South African way to blame the ref when things go bad or use the ref as an excuse when you lose.
Dylan Jack, staff writer (@dylanmattjack): Couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone from Rassie to Siya Kolisi, or anyone in the technical team, will be overly concerned by this. The focus and energy pre-match will be on how we plan on beating Wales. This side should be progressing to the final regardless of who’s in charge of the match.
Wade Pretorius, contributor (@wadepretorius): That puts what PDivvy said right out of the window [read what the former Bok coach said about World Cup refs HERE]. I’ll admit, I’m concerned that his work at the breakdown could be problematic but he won’t go full Bryce Lawrence on us. It’s a shame that the refs have fallen to such standards where the pre-match hype is centred around them. With Garces in charge, I do wonder about the 6-2 bench split – don’t we need another backline option on the bench in case things get dodgy at the breakdown and the Boks need to open the game up?
Lewis: Predicting his performance is impossible. He may end up going the complete opposite way and become overly controlling because of the earlier criticism. World Rugby could have avoided a lot of this talk by deploying someone like Ben O’Keeffe for this one.
Rassie Erasmus’ team selections have been the top talking point with Faf, Willie and even Handre coming in for criticism. Does he change things up?
Lewis: They’ll go into Wales with the same side. There’s no need to change anything up because Frans Steyn covers three positions off the bench. The current squad is best suited to playing Erasmus’ style. An almost entirely new forward pack off the bench plays perfectly into our physical style.
Pretorius: I’d like Damian Willemse to be introduced on to the bench. This game plan is one-dimensional and many of the starting backline players can only fill one role. We need something different to cater for the emergency event where we need to chase the game in the last 20 minutes. Willemse would be a bolter.
Lewis: The game plan will only change ever so slightly even if we are behind. They’ll kick less or maul less if they have to chase the game with ball-in-hand play, but ultimately we have based our tournament hopes on a suffocating defence and a brutal physical pack. Can this team suddenly start throwing the ball around with 20 minutes to play? They’ve never done it under Rassie and don’t look like they ever will.
Jack: I can see that there is no natural replacement in the back three. Steyn’s size now means he isn’t suited to be playing 15. Maybe a change to the starting 23 rests on whether Cheslin Kolbe’s ankle is 100% perfect. I don’t think Rassie will be wanting to move Damian de Allende to the wing. That could be my only concern with the current 6-2 split.
Lewis: This is where the team misses Jesse Kriel. His ability to play naturally across a number of positions changed the dynamic of the bench.
Pretorius: To me, Kriel was in the squad on his dynamic ability and versatility while Steyn is there on his experience.
Jack: Talk all we like, it’ll be the same 23 from last week …
Who do we play in the final?
Pretorius: Easy. New Zealand. They’ll win by more than a try. Although, I do think the first 20-30 minutes will be a ferocious contest.
Jack: If any team can stop the All Blacks, it is England. John Mitchell has done a tremendous job of organising the defensive structures. England are actually suited to playing the All Blacks and we saw the evidence last week when Australia threw everything at them but couldn’t break through. England’s wings are experts at countering the crosskicks that New Zealand have executed well so far. For me, it’s up to the English halfbacks if they are to win – can they take the points on offer?
Lewis: England might have the defence and kicking game to test but the All Blacks will win this one. They have adaptability in all scenarios and a group of players that have experience in dealing with the occasion. The quarters might’ve been a little one-sided but the semis will be closer and New Zealand’s core of experience must be tipped to see them home.
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images