Crusaders coach Robbie Deans believes the Boks are the only team that can stop the All Blacks winning the World Cup.
Deans, writing in the French Rugby Hebdo paper, praised John Smit and Jake White and said the Boks and All Blacks were the only two realistic contenders.
“There are about eight or 10 contenders who are trying to convince themselves they can win the World Cup. But there are only two who know they really can win it: New Zealand and South Africa.”
Deans sees White’s Springboks as the squad most likely to crash the All Blacks World Cup party.
“I am sure they (New Zealand) have the potential to play at a higher degree of intensity no matter who their adversaries are, except perhaps for South Africa,” wrote Deans. “There are three reasons the Boks can win this World Cup. The first is historic. And it is not only because the core of the squad is from the Under-21 side, coached by a certain Jake White, that became [Under-21] world champions in 2002 by dominating the final against a New Zealand team that included five players who are here in France, including Daniel Carter.”
Carter actually did not play and the Boks beat NZ in a semi-final 19-18. Nevertheless, Deans continued.
“These Boks have since notched up some considerable success, like the Tri Nations victory in 2004 or that of the South African sides in this year’s Super 14.
“White has at his disposal a mature squad that prides itself on considerable confidence, which is based as much on their performances as the depth of their bench, which has been markedly superior to whatever his predecessors had.”
Deans also believes the Springboks will head into the quarter-finals realising that for a number of them, this could represent a fairytale end to their careers. “Victory could be the culmination of some of their careers, for players like John Smit or Victor Matfield â€¦ not to mention [coach] White,” Deans wrote.
He added that while the Springboks have maintained their physical prowess, White has introduced a broader mindset to the squad.
“South African teams always fall back on their physical prowess and a mentality that is unfailing, but White has added certain mental flexibility,” he said.
Deans also pointed to the pride South African players have in wearing the Springboks jersey and the leadership of Smit as being pivotal, as well as Smit’s calmness under pressure.
“Smit is not only a respected captain. He is also a man who can keep his emotions buried deep inside when faced with the pressure moments,” he said.