New Zealand Herald columnist Chris Rattue says the Springboks are the only side with the capacity to beat the All Blacks.
The Springboks on course for a quarter-final match-up with Australia, a side they have lost four of their last five Tests against, two of those defeats coming in South Africa. Progressing beyond that stage will be difficult but if they do a semi-final awaits against the All Blacks, who are likely to dispatch Argentina comfortably in the preceding round.
The Blacks produced their best performance of the tournament in hammering France 37-17 at Eden Park on Saturday and reaffirmed their standing as the favourites to win the tournament. Rattue dismissed the challenge of any northern hemisphere sides as well as Australia, pointing to the Springboks as the side most capable of ensuring the Blacks’ title drought continues.
‘Thank goodness for the Springboks, because without their promising form we would be forced into declaring that the All Blacks will win the Webb Ellis in a canter. This sort of outrageous arrogance is not allowed in hosts with the most in terms of famous World Cup failures,’ he wrote.
‘The Australians are dog tucker on this side of the Tasman and are dallying with disarray. The northern hemisphere teams are subtlety-free. No one else has Daniel Carter and Ma’a Nonu. Springbok muscle and their history of rising to the occasion loom as the only serious threat.
‘The All Blacks are rip-roaring favourites with South Africa left as the main hurdle. The Boks will have strong support at Eden Park, the world’s best goalkickers with a range of 60 metres, and forwards such as Gurthro Steenkamp, super-sub Bismarck du Plessis, Heinrich Brussow and Schalk Burger in rollicking form. They know how to win World Cups, unlike the All Blacks.’
Rattue pointed to the 10-12 axis of Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu as being the fulcrum around which the Blacks’ success revolves. He called Carter ‘almost untouchable’ but saved his most lavish praise for the white-hot Nonu.
‘He is cutting teams to ribbons, but his temperament and handling under pressure have not been challenged. If given the chance, the Boks will try to uncover the Nonu of old,’ he wrote.
‘The tournament is there for the All Blacks to lose, and any team hoping to sink the favourites will need to turn the mighty ship Nonu around by reducing his front-foot ball or confidence. I don’t fancy their chances.’
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