KOBE, 7 Oct – A preview of the Pool B match between South Africa and Canada, on Tuesday at the Kobe Misaki Stadium.
The Big Picture
It is all about the five points on offer when the Springboks take on Canada in their final Pool B match. Earn them and Siya Kolisi’s team are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, which would preserve their record of having made the last eight in every Rugby World Cup they have participated in since their first one in 1995.
The slightly tricky part for the Boks is managing the short turnaround from their last match, against Italy on Friday in Shizuoka.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has tried to deal with that issue by including just two regulars in his starting line-up – Kolisi and centre Damian de Allende, above in training – but the fact remains that the squad as a whole help to prepare the team, and it is tough to get up for another match mentally and physically so quickly.
“Overall, what World Rugby put into the Tier 2 nations is really great, and we’ve put a lot of time into Canada because if you take your eye off them, there might be one or two little errors and they get a sniff (some momentum),” Erasmus said.
This will be the first match between the two teams since 2000, when Boks coach Erasmus played in the South Africa team that won 51-18 in East London.
There is the danger that they could underestimate Canada, who have conceded 111 points in their two matches against Italy and New Zealand.
The Canucks have had multiple opportunities to score in the previous games, but have not been able to see that reflected on the scoreboard.
A 48-7 defeat to Italy was followed by a 63-0 rout where they struggled to match the speed and endurance of the New Zealand team.
Their biggest match of the tournament will be against Namibia on Sunday, as that is their chance of a victory at Rugby World Cup 2019.
“For any Tier 1 nation, playing the All Blacks and the Springboks in one week is a challenge. I’ve done that with Wales and I know, from personal experience, it takes a toll on the players,” said Canada assistant coach Huw Wiltshire.
“We are hugely respectful of the South African team. Themselves and the Blacks are probably the two best sides at the minute in the tournament.
“Two things you can’t defend against in rugby and that’s speed and power, and both those countries have got it across their teams, across the park and across their whole squads.”
In the spotlight
Damian Willemse arrived in Japan on Wednesday as an injury replacement for Jesse Kriel, and it was a moment of sheer joy for the 21-year-old from Cape Town, who had missed most of the season with a knee injury.
Erasmus has said that Willemse would have made the World Cup squad if he wasn’t injured, and now the utility back has an opportunity to show the world just what he is capable of.
Willemse is a thrilling talent who is able to play at fly-half, inside-centre and full-back, and it is at the latter that he will make his World Cup debut against Canada.
Willemse is in the same category as Cheslin Kolbe, with his dancing feet, ability to cut defences and steadiness under the high ball.
He will form a potentially explosive back-three combination with Warrick Gelant and S’bu Nkosi against the Canucks.
“We haven’t played together before – I think I only played with S’bu in the England test match (in 2018). Looking forward to playing with Warrick. Both of them are good finishers, so hopefully I can get the ball to them, and they can do their magic,” Willemse said.
It will also be a day to remember for Canada left-wing DTH van der Merwe, who will be playing against the country of his birth and will also make his 15th Rugby World Cup appearance – the most by any Canadian player.
Van der Merwe has an excellent record of 38 tries in 60 test matches, and the 33-year-old would like nothing more than scoring against his former countrymen. If he does so, he will become one of only four players to score at least one try at four different Rugby World Cups.
“It’s something special. I’ve looked forward to my whole career to play against South Africa,” said Van der Merwe, who still has some family in Cape Town.
“They have got a physical pack that’s complemented with a real speedy backline. For us, it’s a great opportunity just to measure ourselves against one of the best teams in the world.”
Erasmus has mixed and matched his combination because his “A team” played as recently as Friday against Italy.
But the significant selection is that of captain Kolisi, who Erasmus said had an excellent outing against the Azzurri and needs to keep that momentum going against Canada.
But the coach has also called on those selected against the Canucks to make a bid for the match squad in the quarter-finals.
Canada have six changes to their team and they will be happy that winger DTH van der Merwe is available after limping in the last minutes of the match against New Zealand.
Hubert Buydens, Andrew Quattrin and Jake Ilnicki form a new front row, while Phil Mack is in at scrum-half, and second-row Kyle Baillie returns to the pitch post-injury for his first World Cup appearance.
Stats and Trivia
Erasmus was involved as a player in South Africa’s last test against Canada, in 2000 in East London, which the Springboks won 51-18.
DTH van der Merwe will reach 15 World Cup appearances. That is the most for a Canadian. After the game against New Zealand, he was tied with Rod Snow and Jamie Cudmore on 14.
“If this team doesn’t at least match that or step up, they will struggle to stay in team selection, and make the team. They know that, and that will be one of the challenges.” – South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus.
“It’s quite obvious the way they’re defending and their attack and everything is very front-foot oriented. But I think in every defensive structure or the attack, when people do bring up line speed, there are opportunities elsewhere.” – Canada left-wing DTH van der Merwe.
RR WORLD RANKINGS – During World Cup the RR Ranking Points are DOUBLED
RSA (on 85.75 points) -vs- CAN (on 61.12 points) in a RWC match
|If RSA win by 1-15 points
|If RSA win by more than 15
|If result is a draw
|If CAN win by 1-15 points
|If CAN win by more than 15
🇿🇦 SOUTH AFRICA
1 Thomas du Toit, 2 Schalk Brits, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 RG Snyman, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (capt.), 7 Kwagga Smith, 8 Francois Louw, 9 Cobus Reinach, 10 Elton Jantjies, 11 S’bu Nkosi, 12 Frans Steyn, 13 Damian de Allende, 14 Warrick Gelant, 15 Damian Willemse
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux
1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Andrew Quattrin, 3 Jake Ilnicki, 4 Evan Olmstead, 5 Kyle Baillie, 6 Lucas Rumball, 7 Matt Heaton, 8 Tyler Ardron (capt.), 9 Phil Mack, 10 Peter Nelson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Ciaran Hearn, 13 Conor Trainor, 14 Jeff Hassler, 15 Andrew Coe
Replacements: 16 Benoît Pifféro, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Josh Larsen, 20 Mike Sheppard, 21 Jamie Mackenzie, 22 Shane O’Leary, 23 Guiseppe du Toit
Date: Tuesday, October 8
Kick-Off: 19:15 local
Venue: Misaki Stadium, Kobe
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistants: Angus Gardner (Australia) & Andrew Brace (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)