The attacking skills of the All Blacks were on display in the 1st half of the opening RWC game against Tonga, but a total of 12 handling errors will be a source of disappointment. Referee George Clancy awarded 13 penalties against the New Zealanders which will also be a concern for the 3 wise men.
Tonga’s scrum coach Dan Cron might claim bragging rights over his Dad (NZ scrum coach Mike) after a dominant 2nd half performance by the men in red culminated in a try by Alisona Taumalolo.
New Zealand however, will take heart from the fact that before going on to win RWC 2007, South Africa only scraped home against Tonga 30-25 in the pool stages. The All Blacks will benefit from the physical encounter which kicked off this year’s competition, unlike their stroll through the early games in France 4 years ago.
South Africa v Wales
22 year old Sam Warburton is the second youngest Welsh captain ever, with only Gareth Edwards skippering the side at a younger age. 33 year old John Smith will win his 107th cap when he leads the Springboks against Warburton’s Wales on Sunday night in Wellington. This classic youth versus experience encounter will add another dimension to this crucial match.
The Springboks pack is renowned for its physical presence, but look out for Welsh lock Luke Charteris who at 2.06 metres (6’9”) and 125kg will tower over Springboks Victor Matfield and Dannie Roussouw.
Bismarck du Plessis will be disappointed to be wearing the number 16 shirt but is likely to make a significant impact when he does take the field. Bismarck is viewed by many as the best hooker in the world but John Smit’s leadership skills are legendary. The outcome of Sunday’s game might determine whether or not Bismarck graduates to the starting 15 for future games.
Youth versus Experience
Brendan Venter won a RWC medal for the Springboks in 1995 before being red-carded at the 1999 tournament for stamping. He went on to coach London Irish and Saracens and while never far from controversy is known as one of the shrewdest analysts in the game.
Venter recently wrote of the importance of experience in winning a World Cup. He remarked that although “there is no guarantee you will win it with senior players you definitely will not win it with a bunch of kids”.
This theory will give hope to Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa respectively the 3 oldest squads competing in RWC 2011. Robbie Deans may not be happy to hear that his Wallabies are the youngest squad and by Venter’s reckoning unlikely to win the competition.
Sibling Rivalry and Brotherly Love
There are 13 sets of brothers among the 20 competing nations at this year’s World Cup. Sparks might fly between those appearing on opposing teams such as Salesi Ma’afu who will play for Australia while brother Campese will prop in the Fijian scrum. Manu Tuilagi is expected to star for England while his older brother Alesana will play for Samoa and Sailosi Tagicakibau will play for Samoa and brother Michael will turn out for Fiji.
Parents of the following however will not be forced to choose one son over another! Jamie and Phil McKenzie will play for Canada, Owen and Ben Franks for New Zealand, twins Anthony and Saia Fainga’a for Australia, Marco and Mirco Bergamasco for Italy, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis for South Africa, Darryl and Ryan de la Harpe for Namibia, Vakhtang and Zviad Maisuradze for Georgia, Andrew and Roland Suniula for the United States, and George Pisi and Tusi Pisi for Samoa.
“There is little difference between winning and losing except you feel better winning” – South African coach Peter de Villiers
“Score more points than the opposition” – Scottish Head Coach Andy Robinson’s answer to a question about his game plan for the game against Romania.
“I hate saying the old cliches. I like to make my own ones up. You’ve just got to take each game as it comes" – All Black Cory Jane.
‘’Because I’m a prickly old man’’ – USA’s Paul Emerick reveals why his nickname is ’’Cactus’’.
Photo: Jean-Francois Fournier, Monaco