Boks on Tour
'Boks in RWC 2011 semis'
Baabaas and Italy coach Nick Mallett. (Gallo)
London – Nick Mallett does not share the pessimism about South African rugby, and believes Peter de Villiers’s Springboks are headed for next year’s World Cup semi-finals with New Zealand and Australia.
“I think the three Southern Hemisphere sides will definitely make the semi-finals. It should be between England and France for the other spot,” said Mallett.
“New Zealand have home advantage and are the form team, while Australia are the most improved side this year. England have stepped forward in spite of the beating they took from South Africa.
“I’m surprised at why France is so poor and you have to ask yourself what is going on there. But the World Cup is a one-off and France still have the ability to beat anyone on the day.”
New Zealand and France are together in Group A for next year’s World Cup, while England are in Group B with Argentina and Scotland.
Australia and Ireland are in Group C, and South Africa and Wales in Group D.
If the World Cup takes the predictable route, the quarterfinals should be Australia v Wales, England v France, South Africa v Ireland, and New Zealand v Argentina or Scotland.
Should the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies all remain standing after that, the Wallabies are set to get England or France in their semifinal with South Africa and New Zealand meeting in the other.
Mallett will coach Italy in the tournament, but will have a tough task in the same group as Australia and Ireland.
This week Mallett is in charge of the Barbarians team that will play against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
Mallett has made it clear that the Barbarians’ approach will be true to their tradition. He expects South Africa to stick to the blueprint that brought them success against England.
“This is an opportunity for the Boks to try something different if they want. It will be difficult to tell guys like Elton Jantjies and Patrick Lambie not to get their hands on the ball. I think those two young guys can’t wait for the chance,” said Mallett.
“I think South Africa will stick to the structure that brought them success against England. I expect the Boks’ forwards will be used to get them on the front foot and the backline will be used after that. It’s a very effective plan.”
Mallett has picked a star-studded backline with five Wallabies and two All Blacks.
“Ma’a Nonu and Joe Rokocoko are the All Blacks in the backline and both are excellent ball-carriers. However, everything depends on whether we can give them quality possession,” said Mallett.
“You often see South African sides beat Australian and New Zealand teams with superior backlines because they starve them of possession.
“It’s important for our forwards to do well at set-piece. Our backs should then get us on the front foot and we will use the forwards after that. That is the approach these players are comfortable with.”
Mallett’s biggest challenge this week is to get his players to take defence as seriously as attack.
“It’s never a problem to get the guys to attack, but you have to make sure they are prepared to defend as if it’s a Test match. That depends on the spirit and attitude that you are able to foster in the week leading up to the game.”