Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Birmingham - Rival coaches Heyneke Meyer and Stephen Betham may well be contemplating different red-letter periods on their watches during Saturday’s World Cup Pool B clash between South Africa and Samoa at Villa Park here (17:45 SA time).
Betham, mastermind of the Pacific Islanders, has been quoted as saying he believes the Boks - bound to be hurting after their Japan debacle - “will attack from the start” and that the “first 15 minutes will be crucial”.
Few rugby enthusiasts need reminding that the opening exchanges of important matches can prove seriously useful in laying down markers, and with the Boks ego-wounded and Samoa traditionally rough-and- ready in their approach throughout, the early play ought not to provide fare too suited to the squeamish.
But Meyer is nevertheless likely to have his own concerns focused rather more at the back end of the tussle - where his charges have too often proved surprisingly fallible this season.
Just think how much better their 2015 Test record might look (it currently reads a lamentable one win in five) if they hadn’t lost their mojo in the final quarter of assignments.
The Boks have allowed their composure to unravel during that period, at a heavy cost, in at least three Tests, including the first two of this year’s abbreviated Castle Rugby Championship against Australia (away) and New Zealand (home) respectively.
After more than living with both of their greatest rivals in the southern hemisphere for three-quarters of the game each time, South Africa were outwitted or just plain outlasted in the dying minutes.
First they frittered away a promising, tough-grafted lead in Brisbane by conceding two tries in the last eight minutes to the Wallabies as they were edged out 24-20, and then commanded a 20-17 advantage over the All Blacks in Johannesburg, only to leak 10 decisive points in the final seven minutes or so.
Of even deeper concern, the Bok “Goliath” at several stages against the Japanese “David” last Saturday looked like taking charge and staving off a giant-killing: when Lood de Jager (44th minute) and Adriaan Strauss (62nd) notched converted tries, it seemed the underdogs would have their determined hash settled.
But then a headless-chicken virus spread through the Springbok ranks as Japan rallied with a verve and second wind that caught them completely - not mention infamously now-- by surprise.
Several of the perceived “bigger” rugby nations at this World Cup have been given good initial runs for their money already by lesser powers, but still had the calmness and strategic nous to close out the result fairly comfortably in their favour in the final analysis.
New Zealand’s 26-16 disposal of Argentina, France’s 32-10 outcome against Italy and England’s 35-11 triumph over Fiji in the opening game come to mind as lessons in unflappability from favourites while the sands of time trickle out.
It is high time for the Boks to eliminate their nervy disposition and loss of gusto at the business end of Test matches - if they can manage it against the Samoans here, they should avoid, perhaps even consummately, another “Japan” occurring.
Meanwhile fresh waves of Bok fans keep arriving out of South Africa, clearly not too deterred or dispirited yet by events in Brighton, but certainly wanting the national side to give them some infinitely better bang for their stretched travel buck.
As was the case in Brighton - though a fat lot of good that did for the Bok cause on the day - conditions look like being ideal at Villa Park, with pleasantly sunny, calm weather and a firm pitch tipped for the venue in this Midlands metropolis on Saturday.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jesse Kriel
15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Ray Lee-Lo, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Mike Stanley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Iosefa Tekori, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Sakaria Taulafo
Substitutes: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Vavae Tuilagi, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 George Pisi
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the RWC 2015 pool phase to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.