In a feature with SA Rugby magazine, legendary Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky weighs in on the Boks’ World Cup preparations and aspirations.
How would you approach the Rugby Championship? Do you use it to test new combinations or do you keep the team consistent?
I think that if you as a coach don’t know your best combinations by now, you are buggered. The coaches have to think about building a winning culture. There are certain games you will want to win and have to win. But there are other games, like the Boks’ match against the All Blacks in Wellington, which if they don’t win, it won’t be the end of the world. Each coach will be thinking it is an opportunity to build momentum and grow the winning habit.
Will this be the toughest World Cup?
The difference between this World Cup and past World Cups is based on the results from last year. It is quite an open World Cup. There are six or seven teams that on a good day are capable of winning it. The reality is that to win the tournament you need to win three or four big games. It is also being played in neutral territory so there is no home-ground advantage for any of the favoured teams. There are no external influences that will be more inspiring for one particular team. That makes it very exciting and attractive from a spectator perspective.
Does the fact it is in Japan make it more appealing?
There are two sides to it. Obviously, being in a foreign place where most people may not have been before is a big attraction. However, Japan is incredibly expensive. That will ensure some people won’t travel. I don’t think you will have many South Africans going there with the rand as it is.
What are the key areas on-field that could determine whether the Boks win or lose the World Cup?
When you go to a World Cup, it is not about chasing tries and bonus points. It is purely about winning games. In pressure situations at Test level there are three things you need to do. You have to be strong defensively. The team with the best defence normally, if not always, wins. You have to be disciplined, which means you are not giving away territory or free points. Finally, you need a big pack of forwards to dominate up front. I think the Boks are well set up. We have the forwards and have shown that we can defend. We are not the dark horse everyone thinks we are.
Who do you think could be a surprise package at the World Cup?
There are one or two ‘Pools of Death’. One of the big teams will not go through to the quarters. That is normally the nature of the competition, though. I don’t there will be many major surprises because there are so many top contenders. I don’t think we will see something like Japan beating the Springboks this year.
Should any new players be brought into the Springbok squad, especially overseas players who have not yet had a chance to prove themselves?
If you have not been given the chance by now, it is too late. Over the past 18 months Rassie Erasmus has built his platform and the way he wants to play. In his defence, he has looked far and wide and considered many players. He has given many players a chance and a run. I can’t believe there is anyone out there he hasn’t thought of. Everyone has been looked at and considered. If there were any youngsters in the system who have come to the fore in the past few months of this year, they might have a chance.
Interview by Dylan Jack
Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA