City Press

Underdog season

2015-09-20 15:00

Upsets are not uncommon in the pool stages of the rugby World Cup and could have a crucial bearing on the quarterfinals. 

The Springboks were the beneficiaries of such a turn-up for the books in 2007 when France unexpectedly lost the opening game 12-17 against Argentina at the Stade de France to throw the tournament wide open. 

But perhaps the biggest upset of all was during the group stages in the 1991 tournament, when Western Samoa (as the islanders were then called) shocked Wales 16-13 at their then home ground, Cardiff Arms Park. 

It was the first time a leading nation had come unstuck against one of the minnows and spurned the quip: “Thank heavens Wales weren’t playing against the whole of Samoa!” 

However, in 1999, Samoa took the opportunity to show that their famous victory was no fluke when they once again doused the flames from the snout of the Welsh Dragon – this time triumphing 38-31 – to become the first visiting team to win at Wales’ shining new Millennium Stadium. 

The pool stages dictate the make-up of the quarterfinals and, eight years later, it was again Wales who choked under the pressure of going through to the knockout stages. 

A large contingent of Welshmen were in France to see their team play Fiji in Nantes and march on to a quarterfinal against the all-conquering Springboks in Marseilles. 

Instead, it was the big Fijian team that won, 38-34, which led to the odd sight of thousands of red-shirted Welshmen cheering on their conquerors against South Africa inside the Stade Vélodrome. 

The Boks had a shaky period midway through the game, as Fiji ran rampant, but they regathered their composure to win 37-20 and advance to the semifinal against Argentina in Paris. 

In the last World Cup in New Zealand, it was the turn of Ireland to shock Australia 15-6 in the group stages – but the Irish could not keep up the momentum and the Wallabies were able to nevertheless get through to the last eight where, infamously, they knocked out the Boks. 

Teams strive to top their pool to meet the second-placed team from another pool – and thus theoretically have an easier quarterfinal. 

In this year’s tournament in England, there are a number of key clashes to watch out for – especially Pool A, the so-called pool of death that includes four competitive teams: hosts England, Australia, Wales and Fiji. 

The Springboks’ focus will be on the outcome of Pool A

Read more on:    2015  |  rwc  |  rugby


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