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 Springboks’ RWC hopes, the haka’s place in the game and the strength of the minnows.
Does the Springboks’ loss change your pre-tournament predictions?
Dylan Jack, staff writer (@dylanmattjack): We’re not on England’s side of the draw, which is a good thing even though we get Ireland now. I’m confident that we can fix the small issues over the next few games and get past that one. Faf’s kicking and defensive concerns are top priority. Defeat by the All Blacks doesn’t ruin everything the team has done so well for quite some time now. A blessing in disguise is that it’s highlighted the things we need to improve on.
No one is panicking. Neither should we.
Craig Lewis, editor (@craigolewis): The loss is pretty immaterial, really. You have to beat the best teams and stay alive in the knockouts to win and we’re still some way away from that. Entering the event, the last eight didn’t have much to pick between them and that still remains now.
The All Blacks tactics to counter our defence have been shown. Yes, they worked but maybe we learned more than they did for the potential rematch – which I still think is on.
Wade Pretorius, contributor (@wadepretorius): Hard to disagree, Craig. Like you both, I have this blind faith (backed by the work done by the Boks over the past two years) that no matter what we will get past Ireland. Not by much but still enough to make the last four and then, it’s a 50-50 shout.
But why are we writing off Ireland so easily/quickly?
Lewis: I don’t think we are. But at some stage, you have to win a few games in a row and the Springboks will do that. It’s more about our road to the final and we are capable of dismantling Ireland en route to the final. The best have to play and beat the best to win.
Pretorius: Except in 2007 when we just sauntered to the final with everyone losing around us and then replayed England for the Cup. No NZ, no Australia etc, etc. Even got Argentina in the semis.
Lewis: We did have to beat England to win in 2007, though …
Jack: Back the Boks to beat Ireland. None of the plans have changed – we are playing a much-changed side against Namibia, we will go back to a strong side against Italy and then beat Ireland.
The haka: Here to stay or removed immediately because it gives the Kiwis an unfair advantage?
Jack: I’m more than happy for it to stay. It makes rugby unique and it’s part of the spectacle. Teams, though, should be able to react however the hell they want to and not be forced to stand arm in arm and watch.
Pretorius: It can stay, but for heaven’s sake please change back to the ‘old’ ways – remove the cameras and operators that now stand in between the two teams. Let the opposition move up to the halfway line and let’s see the battle really be declared.
Jack: It would be great to see Etzebeth and Co replicating the fierce face-offs of the past. Or let teams that want to upset New Zealand go back to their half and continue to do drills or whatever they please.
Lewis: There’s no way it has a significant influence on the field of play. It can work both ways … Aaron Smith mentioned last weekend that the team were so fired up that they didn’t actually perform all that well at the start of the game against the Boks. When the whistle goes, no one is thinking about the haka anymore.
Wake me up when the quarters have been decided, am I right?
Pretorius: The minnows are still minnows. Not every team can beat every team. This is the World Cup and it should be about the best against the best for as much as possible. The world is watching and they are bored outside the handful of high-profile matches. There I said it, bring on the trolls.
Jack: I disagree. Yes, there’s ground to made up but Uruguay beating Fiji is a great statement for the game. Man for man Fiji could compete with any country on the physicality side of things and they have plenty of players playing in top leagues. Technically, it should’ve been one-way traffic and it wasn’t. And that’s why we watch this stuff. It shows progress is being made. Potential shocks are still there. Fiji nearly beat us in 2007. France lost to Tonga in 2011.
Tier-two nations should be playing more and not less. That’ll improve them immensely.
Pretorius: Except that it’s still meaningless to who progresses to the last eight.
Lewis: But it is fun to watch. Take Russia for example. They might be no-hopers but they’ve showcased their competitive nature and equipped themselves well. The fact they aren’t getting smashed means they are worthy.
Pretorius: You guys will watch anything. I can’t sit through all of that. Maybe a solution lies in trimming pools to four which means only the best of those outside the top teams will be in action and games will be closer. They could even play their own Minnow World Cup two years before to qualify and then the teams heading to the World Cup will have two years to prepare for the main event.
Lewis: No, it’s a global game and less is not more in this case. We’ll wake you up when the pool stages are done in a few weeks.