Boks are World Cup contenders, says Jake White while praising Rassie
Cape Town — Former Springbok coach Jake White believes Rassie Erasmus got his tactics spot-on by sending his best team to New Zealand early and forcing the reigning world champions onto the psychological back foot.
Last week’s 16-16 draw in Wellington was a near-perfect precursor to the September 21 Rugby Word Cup showdown between the two southern hemisphere giants in Yokohama.
The Yokohama clash is the first game of the campaign for New Zealand and SA and should decide who wins the pool.
Regardless of the outcome, New Zealand and SA are likely to advance to the play-offs as second-placed team from a group that includes Italy‚ Canada and Namibia.
But in a broader context‚ with a view to the entire World Cup‚ the Boks’ recent performances‚ which included a 35-17 win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park‚ have made the world take notice.
Erasmus and his team are suddenly being touted as dark horses for the tournament.
The draw in Wellington has both bloodied the All Blacks’ nose and sent warning shots across the bows of potential quarterfinal opponents Ireland and Scotland.
White‚ who guided the Boks to the 2007 world title‚ praised Erasmus’s tactics of making a World Cup statement through their approach to Wellington.
Erasmus sent 13 players — the bulk of his A squad — ahead to New Zealand to give them more time to acclimatise while the rest faced Australia
“The Boks got a draw in Wellington‚ which is great‚ but Rassie’s planning wasn’t about the Rugby Championship‚ but the psychological gains they could achieve with a view to the World Cup‚” White said from Japan, where he coaches Toyota Verblitz.
“Rassie wanted to see if his A team was good enough to match New Zealand in Wellington and the answer is quite obvious now. He has those gains.
“But even if the Boks had lost, he would have had answers and would have clarified his thinking. Either way, he wanted answers and he has got them with a bonus of a positive outcome.”
White dismissed the notion that any other sides other than the Boks and All Blacks will emerge from Pool B.
“Rassie is a very good coach. They aren’t going to lose to Italy even if they don’t beat the All Blacks‚” White said.
“SA will be World Cup contenders. For one thing, they have a great draw.
“It doesn’t matter if they win or lose the New Zealand game because they will have three weeks to prepare for a quarterfinal. I honestly don’t think winning that opening game is vital.
“If you win you’re likely to play Scotland, and if you lose you play Ireland in the last eight. It’s not really a high-road-low-road scenario because there are no easy quarterfinal games these days.”