Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, former Springbok lock and SuperSport pundit KOBUS WIESE on strange substitutions, why Victor Matfield is past his prime and the Springbok-All Black Test match on Saturday.
Sport24 asked: Having won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, what does it take to win the title?
Kobus Wiese: In order to win a World Cup, you naturally have to possess a God-given talent. However, talent alone is not enough and won’t guarantee you victory.I believe attitude plays a major part in winning rugby’s greatest prize. I have always held the view that if you train, live and play by the four Ds – dedication, determination, discipline and desire, you will ultimately prove successful. If you put your mind to something in life, there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Sport24 asked: 20 years later, your reflections on the 15-12 win over the All Blacks in the final?
Kobus Wiese: I noticed New Zealand panic in extra-time, and we managed to win the title because we were able to maintain our composure. The final worked exactly the way we had planned it. I was extremely fortunate and feel truly blessed to have been a member of a team that was willing to sacrifice their time, effort and train exceptionally hard to achieve one common goal and dream.
Sport24 asked: The Springboks and All Blacks clash for the 90th time at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday. Why is the rivalry between the two best sides in the world held in such high esteem?
Kobus Wiese: No disrespect to any of the other top rugby nations in the world, but the Springbok-All Black Test has always been very special because both nations are highly competitive and sports-mad countries. Playing against the old enemy was always memorable, and even more so in front of a partisan home crowd of 63 000 fans. As a former Springbok, I know for a fact it’s the ultimate Test match you want to compete in. It draws a lot of people’s attention and evokes plenty of emotion.
Sport24 asked: You stepped forward to the haka in the ‘95 final. Why is it such a special tradition?
Kobus Wiese: I love the haka. It is part of world rugby and should be respected whether you are a Kiwi or not. The haka is synonymous with All Black rugby and is a rich part of their history. I have seen some teams in the past not facing the famous war dance, and I believe that is disrespectful. Teams should use the haka to their benefit by feeding off its energy. I faced the Haka four times and always enjoyed the moment. When I stepped in front of James Small, with Jonah Lomu bearing down before the final, all I can say is my teammate paid me a lot of money to do so (Laughs).
Sport24 asked: Heyneke Meyer made premeditated substitutions against Australia. Your verdict?
Kobus Wiese: We don’t want to criticise a coach all the time after a match, but Heyneke made a mistake. The timing of the substitutions was wrong. Firstly, I can never understand why a coach would want to change a player that is performing really well – let him play the full 80 minutes because he has got momentum and the other players will feed off that. Secondly, why do you change a front row with a five metre scrum on defence, and a lineout jumper plus a hooker on a defending lineout? In my opinion, it adds to the pressure and does not make any sense whatsoever.
Sport24 asked: What are the essential qualities every lock forward should have in their arsenal?
Kobus Wiese: The late Doc Craven once famously said that if you gave him two good locks, he would build the team around them, and that is so true. The locks are the heart of the scrum and pack of forwards. The locks are the two players on the field who control the line-out ball, the kick-offs, get the driving mauls going and who enforce their physical presence. Taking nothing away from any other position, if you struggle in the lock department, you will have problems in your team at large.
Sport24 asked: Victor Matfield is absent due to injury. Is Lood de Jager an able deputy at No 5?
Kobus Wiese: No disrespect to Matfield, but I don’t believe his injured-enforced absence will prove a major loss. He is still a world-class lineout forward, but his physical presence at this stage is not that big of a factor. In terms of loose play, Matfield is definitely past his best. We lose his experienced lineout ability, but a player like De Jager offers more of a physical presence. The 22-year-old will add something to the pack in that regard. We have enough talent in the lock department, so I’m not worried. Matfield’s experience does count, but I would now look to invest in the future.
Sport24 asked: De Jager and Etzebeth will face James Broadhurst and Brodie Retallick. Your take?
Kobus Wiese: It promises to be an explosive battle. De Jager and Eben Etzebeth would be my first two lock choices for World Cup selection. They are precisely the type of players we need to take to not only the next World Cup, but the one after that. It’s wise to play them as much as possible. For the All Blacks, Retallick is a lock that has proved surprising. He doesn’t appear the most physical forward, but gets stuck in. He is very competitive, plays with aggression and motors around the park. He gets the fire in the All Blacks’ belly going. Meanwhile, Broadhurst has been in very good form.
Sport24 asked: Who was your Springbok roommate and what is the funniest tale you can recall?
Kobus Wiese: I roomed with Balie Swart since my standard six year and he is like a brother to me. I remember when the two of us pranked team manager Morné du Plessis on the bus during the 1995 World Cup. We must have done a pretty decent impression because he believed it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the line. We phoned him from the back of the bus and said we wanted some tickets for the final. After a while, he got annoyed and said the match was sold out and there was nothing he could do. Later that evening, the real Arch called Morné to wish the team well. Thinking it was Balie and I once more, after we had revealed our ruse to him, he was fed up and said abruptly, “Why don’t you guys bugger off and go to bed.” Needless to say Morné was very embarrassed.
Sport24 asked: What impact will Heinrich Brussow have, and where will the game be won or lost?
Kobus Wiese: I don’t want to sound like a typical forward, but there is no doubt that the contest will be won upfront. The reality is that 99.9 percent of games are won in the forward exchanges. The team that can control the scrums and breakdown point will have a 60 percent chance of winning. Heinrich Brussow will absolutely add a presence at the breakdown. He is probably one of the best loose forwards in the world playing close to the ground. Brussow and Francois Louw are seen as two out-and-out fetchers. While Louw can play close to the breakdown point, he has cross-over appeal because one of his strengths is his ability to play wide. As usual against the All Blacks, the breakdown will prove a massive competition point, and it might just swing the game either way. I am rooting for the men in Green and Gold, but there won’t be more than seven points between the two sides.
Roger De Sa
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk