Ashwin: France need a miracle
Johannesburg - With a World Cup winner’s medal to his name, former Springbok wing Ashwin Willemse has a keen awareness of what’s required to win the tournament – and despite the overwhelming support for the All Blacks this weekend, Willemse believes that a win for France isn’t impossible.
“I called this final by a stroke of luck since the beginning,” Willemse told Laureus and Sport24 ahead of Sunday’s trophy match in Auckland.
“The French just need that one game that they have been able to deliver in the past, that magical performance where they themselves don't know how they are capable of performing like that. That I believe is the only way, so in essence they need a miracle!”
A former South African Rugby Player of the Year, Willemse has played for Biarritz in France, giving him an edge in assessing the underdogs in the final, and is clear as to which player needs to fire most if the French are to have a chance at glory. “Dimitri Yachvilli is the one player that I believe who has the ability to inspire the whole team to up their game,” Willemse explained, “and as a leader he is well respected, and assists his captain very well on the field.”
Now working as a television analyst, Willemse’s been keeping a close eye on the tournament, and believes his countrymen were unfortunate not to make it further at the tournament “I think the Boks were extremely unlucky to loose against the Wallabies but they nevertheless left a remarkable impression on me,” said Willemse. “They became better as the tournament went on. South Africa can take a lot of good things out of their World Cup campaign, and the future of Bok rugby, with all the young players that came through, looks bright.”
A former gang member in Cape Town, Willemse’s rise to rugby stardom is an incredible success story, and the former Springbok explained how crucial programs like those run by Laureus are in terms of giving children an opportunity through sport, saying simply that “they’re not important, they’re necessary”.
Willemse also identified the player on the wing who has really stood out in his opinion at this World Cup. “Richard Kahui has impressed me the most of all wings with his overall performance,” he said. Kahui will be one of the All Blacks set on sealing a famous home victory on Sunday; does Willemse honestly believe that France can really win this weekend?
“Yes!” Willemse’s emphatic response; he’s in the minority there, but having predicted the final match-up, and with an intimate knowledge of French rugby, Ashwin Willemse has reason back his instinct. New Zealanders will be hoping that he’s off the mark this time.
• For regular rugby updates from Laureus Academy Members including Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Lynagh, Morne du Plessis and Hugo Porta, visit blog.laureus.com