The SA Rugby magazine team identify what they would love to see come out of the World Cup quarter-finals.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants Ireland to throw the World Cup race wide open by securing an upset win over the All Blacks.
Last November, everyone was convinced that the 2019 World Cup would be the most competitive global tournament yet. By the start of the tournament it appeared as if six teams stood a realistic chance of winning the title.
It remains to be seen, though, whether there will be any surprises in the playoffs. Starting with this weekend, one would expect England, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales to advance to the semi-finals.
For me, the All Blacks remain the favourites to win the tournament for the third-straight time. But if Ireland knock New Zealand out in Tokyo this Saturday, it will surely make for a less predictable final two rounds.
Craig Lewis (editor) is keen to see the dual threat of Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx make all the difference.
Not many could argue against in-form Mbonambi earning his start ahead of Marx in the playoffs. Yet, in explaining the reasons behind this selection for the Boks’ quarter-final, Rassie Erasmus made it very clear that there was more than one consideration in mind when making this pick.
Interestingly, Erasmus said that both hookers may receive 40 minutes of action, with Mbonambi preferred for the bruising, tight exchanges in the first half, while mobile Marx is viewed as a strong candidate to come off the bench when the game has opened up a bit.
For Japan, the thought of rampaging Marx coming on for the final stretch of action must be a daunting one, and there’s no doubt that both players have the ability to wreak havoc in different, but equally important ways.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) wants France to deliver on their promise.
Earlier in the week, France duo Louis Picamoles and Gael Fickou revealed Les Bleus’ plot to take down Wales with an all-out pace onslaught, while fullback Sofiane Guitoune addressed the team’s tendency to self-destruct from a winning position.
The quarter-finalists accurately reflect the top-eight-ranked teams in the world at the moment, but with France being the lowest-ranked team and Wales the second highest. After Wales have won seven of the last eight meetings in this fixture, it’s understandable why Warren Gatland’s charges are odd-on favourites to come out on top on Sunday.
However, France are one of those teams that always show up and show off at a World Cup, irrespective of their form leading up to the event. But while they’ve played with some flair in their three pool matches (the clash with England was cancelled), we are yet to see the best of Les Bleus.
Whatever else might transpire, Picamoles, Fickou and Guitoune are right: France are gonna France come match day.
I, for one, hope it’s the France team with the French flair that pitch up to challenge Wales and not the France team with the self-destruct mode button.
Dylan Jack (staff writer) hopes Japan continue fairytale run.
Japan have provided one of the stories of the tournament by winning all four of their round-robin matches and topping their pool. Going into the World Cup, I don’t think the most fanatic of Japanese rugby supporters would have predicted how well they have played.
Their wins over Scotland, Samoa and, especially, Ireland were no fluke. This was not the case of a tier-two nation getting a lucky try or two and then seeing out the game. Japan have outplayed each opponent they have faced at the World Cup.
However, their toughest test yet is to come this weekend against the Springboks, who hammered the World Cup hosts 41-7 in the final weekend of warm-ups six weeks ago. If Japan manage to find a way around the power of the Bok pack, they will give themselves every chance of winning. One more victory would allow Japan to do what only Argentina have done before – to climb from tier two to tier one through an incredible World Cup run. It would also certainly make for an inspirational story and an unpredictable semi-final.
John Goliath (senior contributor) hopes the Springboks can vary their attack and have a go when it’s on.
The 6-2 split on the bench is an indication that the Boks aren’t going to take any prisoners against Japan. They are going to play a forward-orientated game to try and bully the home side, who, on the other hand, prefer to play with ball in hand and plenty of width on attack.
It’s the obvious way to go for the Boks, to play to their strengths. When they are firing on all cylinders up front, they are unstoppable.
But I still believe the Boks can offer more with ball in hand. They have more than enough classy ball-players to have a go when it’s on to do so. Cheslin Kolbe has shown what he can do with a little space, while Makazole Mapimpi scored a hat-trick the last time he faced Japan.
Yes, the Boks are a one-dimensional outfit, but there is more to them than meets the eye. They may be able to overcome Japan with their power game, but they will need that extra something when their big pack is matched by the likes of Wales, Ireland and the All Blacks later in the tournament.