I'm not sure which I'm more excited about, the fact that the Boks managed to avoid Romain Poite for their quarter-final against Wales this Saturday, or that both Lood de Jager and Frans Malherbe were included in a really good looking Bok side announced to avenge the horror show that was the 2011 quarter-final in Wellington.
The fact that Poite remains in the mix as an assistant is worrying, but referee Wayne Barnes has been good at the World Cup, and given that under him the Boks have won eight and lost three, I am not sure there can be too many complaints there.
His assistants are George Clancy of Ireland and JP Doyle of England, while his TMO is Graham Hughes, also of England, so I suppose the only worry is if the three Poms are bitter about their side heading home early and the Boks taking over their swanky digs in Bagshot!
I am not sure there would have been too many complaints had Rudy Paige snuck onto the bench ahead of Ruan Pienaar either, but under coach Heyneke Meyer, that was never going to happen. Here’s hoping skipper Fourie du Preez stays on the field for a long time!
Incredulously, given the now obvious Bok game plan, starting Morne Steyn and bringing on Handre Pollard if and when it got a little looser, might also have been an option. But I have no issue with the continued Pollard/Lambie combination.
As per the game against the USA, perhaps a small concern re the lack of out and out fetcher to replace Francois Louw if he goes down. It would have been a big call, but starting Willem Alberts in place of Schalk Burger and having Siya Kolisi might have been an option.
Burger has been very good for the Boks, but he does tend to clog up that flyhalf channel (no doubt under instruction) and tends to telegraph his pass a little these days, even though they remain mostly effective.
The breakdown is going to be a key influencer in the game, and will be fun to watch as the Welsh go for the steals, while the Boks use their power to steamroll over the ball. The Vodacom Rugby App shows Wales to have won 37 turnovers to South Africa’s 26, and that in a far tougher pool than the Boks. That said, all of Bismarck du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth have shown themselves to be excellent ball pilferers on their day.
It’s all about how many players you need to commit to the breakdown in order to secure your ball. The fewer you need to commit, the more chance you have for an overlap out wide. As said, a key, key influencer on the game. And it could go either way.
Both team’s defence has been good, with Wales keeping the English and Australian attack at bay while only conceding two tries in their four tough pool games. So one might rate both sides equally on that front.
But that is where the comparisons end.
Samson Lee has not been great at tighthead prop, while his replacement, Tom Francis, was a 152kg, 20-year-old Leeds University student playing second XV just three years ago.
The Bok scrum has not been special, but with Frans Malherbe now starting at tighthead, they should have the measure of the Welsh scrum.
That Welsh injury list is something to behold, and while they are spinning it as being “battle hardened”, I see them as being more “battle hammered” after getting through that pool of death.
Wales have only ever beaten the Boks twice in 30 attempts since 1906, and while under Warren Gatland, Wales have just 2 wins in 28 games against the Boks, Aussies and Kiwis.
The Bok driving maul is back to its best, while the Welsh don’t seem to have one, and sadly, this is how the majority of tries are scored these days.
While the Bok attack has not exactly been fluent, the Vodacom Rugby App shows that it has been significantly better than the Welsh:
• more ball carries (536-459)
• more clean breaks (44-33)
• beaten more defenders (114-78)
• scored more tries (22-11)
With 15 men against 13 Aussies, the Welsh still could not score!
Employ their astute kicking game, perhaps from slightly wider than just scrumhalf and flyhalf, continue to own the lineout, dominate the scrum, be patient and the Boks should take this one with relevant ease.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.