London Sunday Times columnist Stuart Barnes says it’s hard to argue with former England No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio’s assertion that the Springboks will win the 2019 World Cup.
The 2003 World Cup winner tipped the Boks while speaking to a room of Times and Sunday Times subscribers.
Barnes, a Sky Sports commentator who played flyhalf for England, said the Boks had turned things around under coach Rassie Erasmus, with their destructive defensive line having forced the All Blacks’ backline to reshape.
‘South Africa have a rush defence led by the aggressive Damian de Allende that is up there with the best. It bamboozled Beauden Barrett; has led to the positional switch of twice World Player of the Year to fullback; De Allende reminds me of the unheralded 1995 hero, Japie Mulder, a tenacious tough-tackling Springbok.’
Barnes said the Boks have a lineout ‘if not quite to match the majesty of Victor Matfield’s 2007 unit, then to come close enough to challenge any team in the world.’
In Pieter-Steph du Toit, the Boks ‘have a blindside who plays the roaming role performed so brilliantly by Juan Smith in 2007’ and ‘alongside him in the back row is the magnificent Duane Vermeulen at No 8 and, significantly, Siya Kolisi,’ who Barnes calls ‘a fine player and an outstanding captain’.
Barnes said the Boks have ‘two top-class front rows’ and ‘behind the scrum there is no more consistent set of halfbacks in the world’ in Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard.
‘De Klerk is the form scrumhalf in world rugby,’ wrote Barnes, adding that while Pollard is a ‘powerful, direct runner, it is, however, his solid decision-making and unflappable goal kicking that sets him apart.’
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