Rugby enthusiasts and sports experts around the globe have been making predictions about the 2015 rugby world cup since New Zealand took honours in 2011. And with England losing their warm-up match to France last weekend, we are certain that this year’s cup will prove to be one helluva ride.
Some, like Mick Cleary, have listed players to keep an eye on who may give their respective sides the upper hand, these include:
- Julian Savea (New Zealand)
- George North (Wales)
- Israel Folau (Australia)
- Kieran Read (New Zealand)
- Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
- Gael Fickou (France)
- Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
- Sam Burgess (England)
- Nick Goneva (Fiji)
Others, like ESPN’s Tom Hamilton and Sam Bruce have analysed team strengths and weaknesses to predict that:
- Argentina may surprise with an all-star performance (and will probably end up second behind the All Blacks in Pool C).
- Australia’s scrum scrumming woes are bound to continue (if their dire 2014 scrum success rate is anything to go by).
- France will remain predictably unpredictable – and a poor performance in the pool stages is not a predictor of their performance in the latter stages.
- The improved Irish attack could make the team a strong contender this year.
- The All Black’s achilles heel could be their low goal-kicking success rate.
- Samoan politics have not been kind to the team – this lack of support could seriously affect their performance.
- The Scottish lineout could be their ultimate pièce de résistance.
- South Africa’s second place in the lineout success rankings and third in scrum successes could make them a force to be reckoned with.
- Wales will need to improve their second-half scoring if they’re to make their mark.
For the Springboks, Heyneke Meyer has made the decision to go into a training partnership with Namibia, stating that; “I’m excited to be working with them – they have a core of experienced players and management we know well and I’m sure we’ll be able to tap into each other’s expertise as we get ready for the world cup.” Namibian coach, Phil Davies, seems equally excited to join South Africa in the training camp, concluding that it will be the best preparation to expose his team to Tier One opposition.
Nevertheless, despite preparation and past successes, we have come to expect surprises in the Rugby World Cup. In fact, Eddie Butler seems to believe that the fate of the cup will rely heavily on an element of surprise. Butler cited surprising performances in the past, such as:
- Wales breaking into the elite group of finalists in 2011
- France’s remarkable transformation which gave the All Blacks a run for their money and defied all prediction
- Japie Mulder who became an unpredictable force against Jonah Lomu in the 95 World Cup
- Mathew Tait’s performance against South Africa in 2007 which almost turned the final on its head.
- Mike Catt and Jason Leonard who came off the bench for England in 2003 to provide them with much-needed stability and spirit.
Butler wonders what will tip the scales in this cup – whether it will be a kick or a tackle that wins or loses the game. And he concludes that it simply ‘won’t be a surprise until we haven’t seen it coming’.
These questions looming over the RWC only excite us further – in fact, an unpredictable competition will only serve to further exhilarate and entertain the millions of supporters around the globe eagerly rooting for their home team. But of course, we’re quite sure the Bokke will bring the cup home!