A number of Springboks at this Rugby World Cup are at the top of their game and could prove to be match winners. Handre Pollard, Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Herschel Jantjies and plenty more have the ability to change a game in a brilliant performance. Apart from the South Africans though, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand and England all have special players in their ranks.
Former Springbok Victor Matfield rates Marx and Etzebeth as players who will bring their A-game to the World Cup.
“We’ll need them to give us that 'go-forward'. We need them to be really strong when it comes to maul time as well,” Matfield says. A guy like Handre Pollard will be very important for us. He can dictate the play with his boot. He can take on the advantage line and he can create space for the guys to run into on the outside.”
Pollard himself is happy to live up to those expectations going into the World Cup. “It’s not far-fetched to believe we can win the World Cup. I think there a few sides who believe they can win it, so it’s going to come down to small margins. I think we’ve got a great group together,” Pollard says.
“There’s a recipe to winning a World Cup. In a nutshell you need to have a big strong set of forwards, a strong defensive pattern, a strong goal kicker and a decision maker at number 12,” says former Springbok Joel Stransky.
IRB Player of the Year Jonathan Sexton is another standout player outside of New Zealand and South Africa. The Irish flyhalf is coming back from injury and may struggle to get going but he poses an immense threat within the top ranked Ireland team.
George North, the Welsh winger, is playing in his third World Cup. He poses a threat in the Wales team. The baby-faced giant scored two tries on debut against South Africa in 2010 to announce himself on the international scene. The Australian backline look dangerous with Kurtly Beale in it, and the Wallabies may be moving under the radar going into this tournament.
This article first appeared on EWN : Beyond the Touchline: 'Little moments make big rugby players'