Boks definitely in the hunt

And there you have it … Suddenly there are just 8 games left in the World Cup!

This weekend’s quarter finals:

Saturday 08 October 2011
Ireland v Wales, Wellington 07:00
England v France, Auckland 09:30

Sunday 09 October 2011
South Africa v Australia, Wellington 07:00
New Zealand v Argentina, Auckland 09:30

Basically representing a wet dream for the IRB … with the winners of the Saturday quarters playing each other in the first semi and the Sunday winners playing in the second semi, there are now designated Northern and Southern streams with a guaranteed North vs South final on the 23rd of October … And thus guaranteed European eyeballs, and more importantly European TV and tourist money!

The IRB will also be loving the fact that the top 8 ranked teams in the world are all in the quarter finals, thus giving their ranking system credibility. But France, seemingly suffering a similar shambolic set up to their soccer colleagues, stick out like sore thumbs as the team that do not deserve to be there. I believe Samoa would have given England a run for their money, although they have certainly let themselves down on the thuggery and post match Tweeting front.

On that, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is 100% on the money in slamming the thug like tactics used by Samoa during their 13-5 loss on Friday as “something that brings the game into disrepute”.

“What bothered me most is that this could still happen at this level when there is technology at the disposal of the officials. If this is what professional rugby has become I do not want to be part of it,” said Div. Good on him.

So who is going to win this thing?

I said before the World Cup started that if the Wallabies were to lose Benn Robinson or the All Blacks were to lose Dan Carter, that their World Cup aspirations would be severely curtailed … And so it has come to be …

And with the Boks having come into the tournament seriously under cooked in terms of game time, they are now finding the form that comes from regular game time, and the confidence that comes from winning regularly. Bloody tough to have to beat the Aussies and All Blacks BEFORE getting to a final, and the All Blacks still have to be regarded as favourites, but I now truly believe the Boks have as good a chance as any side.

On the other side of the draw I think Ireland are also finding form at the right time, and should have the edge over both Wales and then England, to then take on the best that SANZAR has to offer.

The picks of the quarter finals are without doubt the Wellington games … The city I just happen to be visiting this weekend! Bring on Ireland’s Call and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! Tears guaranteed!

Losing Frans Steyn is a blow, but I do not see it as all doom and gloom … And I certainly do not see it as the Bok coach is seeing it – Div is saying that the loss is worse than the All Blacks loss of Dan Carter! Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh are world class centres, with the former the tried and tested option, and the latter the exciting new kid on the block.

On Steyn’s replacement … Div says he lost a lot of sleep before deciding that he needed a fullback rather than a centre, which has merit. And based on that thinking, and with due respect to those playing in South Africa, there is no one else but Zane Kirchner … It also speaks to a safety first and conservative approach that this Bok management follow.

Two other options that might have made more sense …

1 – Believe in Gio Aplon as your backup fullback to Lambie and pick a wing like Lwazi Mvovo or Bjorn Basson to back up Habana, Hougaard and Pietersen, all of whom took knocks against Samoa.

2 – Believe in Gio Aplon as your backup fullback, think outside the box, and call in one of Ross Skeate, Anton van Zyl or Jean Deysel to cover for the injury ridden Bakkies Botha and Johan Muller …

The men with the whistle:

A panel of 10 Referees and two TMO’s have been selected for the business end of the tournament:

Referee and Assistant Referee duties: Wayne Barnes (England), George Clancy (Ireland), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa), Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Nigel Owens (Wales), Dave Pearson (England), Romain Poite (France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Australia) will perform.
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy) and Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

The quarter final appointments:

Joubert – Wales v Ireland
Walsh – England v France
Lawrence – South Africa v Australia
Owens – New Zealand v Argentina

Cheers,
Tank

PS – Now is the time to get that personalised jersey from Canterbury my friends … Only R 629,00 delivered!

Tank the tighthead

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