The raw power of the SA forwards was impressive against Japan on Sunday, but to win the World Cup the team needs to be far more ruthless on attack
JUST two matches World Cup glory is tantalisingly close for the Springboks but they are only going to have a decent chance of winning the Webb Ellis Cup if they not only beat Wales on Sunday but go up a few gears in the process.
The Boks are looking promising – their pack is quite simply ferocious – but as a team they are not ruthless enough right now to beat either England or New Zealand in the final should they get there.
Incidentally, the Boks have a lamentable recent record against Wales, who went 60 years without a victory over South Africa but now have won five of the last six matches played between the countries.
I am not overly concerned about that record. All of those games were played away from home for the Boks – one was in Washington featuring second-string teams – and the other four losses were tight affairs in Cardiff under Rassie Erasmus’ predecessors.
This will be the first time a full-strength team under Rassie will play Warren Gatland’s men, and a neutral venue in Tokyo is a far cry from the Millennium Stadium in the Welsh capital.
The Boks will relish taking on a team like Wales after the banana skin game that was Japan. It was a difficult game for the Boks to prepare for given that the Japanese play like no other team and are decidedly slippery customers.
They are literally hard to get one’s hands on, which would have frustrated South African players who prefer a good old wrestle.
They will get that from Alun Wyn Jones’ team. With Wales, what you see is what you get, and you can deal with it.
But can Wales deal with the Springboks?
The raw power of the South African forwards was something to behold on Sunday. It has been a long time since we have seen a forward pack maul 30 meters at a time.
So the Boks have the ammunition up front, plus a whole lot more on their bench, and their defence is outstanding, but what is missing is ruthlessness on attack.
The Boks were recklessly wasteful for three quarters of their quarter-final and they got away with it because Japan was so outgunned up front.
There were just too many tries left out there, particularly in the first half, and such profligacy cannot continue in the semi-final and hopefully onwards.
As the World Cup progresses from the Pool stages through the play-offs, with each week the pressure, expectation and need to cut out sloppiness ramps up proportionately. You have to step up or get left behind.
If you think back to the last World Cup final, the All Blacks played as close to the perfect game of rugby against the Wallabies as you can get. The Kiwis barely made an error and smoothly took every opportunity they created.
The Boks are some way off the finished article and they are running out of time to shine up.
Sunday has to see a significant rise in efficiency.