Mallett expects conservative Springbok game at WC

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says that he expects South Africa to play
with a conservative game plan at the Rugby World Cup in England next month.

South Africa’s head coach Heyneke Meyer announced his Rugby World Cup squad
on Friday and Mallett was part of the television panel discussion after the
announcement.

Mallett said the team had played with an attacking, ball-in-hand strategy in
Rugby Championship matches against New Zealand and Australia earlier this year
— and lost both.

He said the squad selected, together with the tactics used in their most recent
match against Argentina in Buenos Aires, gave an indication of what could be
expected at the World Cup.

“It will be a tactical game, which is basically a kicking game. It will
be a conservative brand of rugby. We will play off turnovers, a great defensive
system and good set-pieces.”

Mallett said he believed the team to be led by skipper and centre Jean de Villiers
and coach Heyneke Meyer was “a really good squad with lots of experience”.

But he expressed concern about the large number of players who had been out
of action for long periods, especially among the forwards.

“Willem Alberts, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe,
Coenie Oosthuizen and Duane Vermeulen are all coming back from injury.

“Let’s hope their injuries are not going to curtail their performances
in the World Cup.”

Former Springbok captain and fly-half Naas Botha said scrum-half could be a
crucial position, with first choice Fourie du Preez not having played at top
level for a long time and uncapped Rudy Paige selected, alongside Ruan Pienaar,
as back-up players.

“I would have liked Rudy to have been part of the Rugby Championship
as a player,” said Botha. “There is a big question mark about Fourie
du Preez’s fitness.”

Former Springbok winger Ashwin Willemse singled out scrum-half Cobus Reinach
and fly-half Elton Jantjies as unlucky to miss selection.

Ace goal-kicker Morne Steyn was picked ahead of Jantjies, who Willemse said
had “a phenomenal Super Rugby season”.

Willemse said: “For Steyn to be picked at the expense of Jantjies must
be devastating for Jantjies. And my heart goes out to Cobus Reinach, who was
the back-up scrum-half during the Rugby Championship.”

The panelists agreed that the Springboks should be able to reach the knock-out
stage from a group including Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the United States, with
Samoa and Scotland likely to prove the toughest opponents.

“The starting line-up for Samoa and Scotland should also start in the
first game against Japan,” said Mallett.

“Hopefully, if they are winning comfortably against Japan, they can start
bringing on other players.”

Mallett said that provided the Springboks won their first three games, they
could rest key players for the final group match against the USA ahead of a
tough quarter-final, probably against Australia, England or Wales.

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