Cape Town - Having the right team culture and picking in-form players are key ingredients to winning a Rugby World Cup, former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar believes.
Pienaar, who led the Boks to World Cup glory in 1995, was speaking at an FNB rugby function at Cape Town’s Portside building on Thursday.
The Springboks go into this year’s World Cup short on form, having finished last in the Rugby Championship following defeats in all three of their matches. It also saw them fall from second to fifth in World Rugby’s official rankings.
While all is not 'doom and gloom' for the Boks, Pienaar has highlighted a few worries ahead of the tournament.
“I go back to what the ingredients are to be competitive at a World Cup. One of those things is that you’ve got to have the right culture in the side," said Pienaar.
Pienaar said that in past World Cups the nucleus of the winning teams came from one specific provincial team.
“In 1987 (when New Zealand won), the nucleus came from Auckland and Auckland won everything. In 1991 it was Queensland and they won everything in Australia, in 1995 it was the Lions (South Africa), in 2007 it was the Bulls and the Sharks who dominated Super Rugby and won everything. And in 2011 it was the Crusaders (New Zealand). There’s got to be a core of players that have been winning - on the domestic front and international front.”
According to Pienaar, the principles, energy and culture of South Africa's victorious 1995 team stayed the same.
“You couldn’t change that culture and that is a bit of a worry for me now (with the current Springbok team). Where is the culture going to come from, because we haven’t really had successes... I’m not saying it’s all doom and gloom but you need to find the right culture.”
Pienaar also stressed the importance of picking players who are on top of their game.
“You’ve got to look at form. If you don’t pick players that are not on form going into the World Cup you will get unstuck.”
Here Pienaar used cricket as an example where the Proteas opted for an out-of-form Quinton de Kock at this year’s Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“Quinton de Kock is probably the best batsman that we’ve had in a very long time. He came back from injury, wasn’t on form, got picked and the pressure on that kid was just wrong. You don’t force form, you’ve got train really hard to get form.”
Pienaar had more helpful advice for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“You’ve got to look at which combinations really work, and leadership is crucial. You have to have the leadership to close a game down in the final 10 minutes.”
South Africa’s Pool B opponents at the World Cup are Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the USA.
Should the Springboks win their pool, they could possibly face Australia, England or Wales in the quarter-finals, with a likely semi-final against New Zealand looming.
The Boks start their campaign against the Brave Blossoms in Brighton on Saturday, September 19.