The Jean de Villiers verdict: 'I'm not feeling confident at all'
Former Springboks midfielder Jean de Villiers has outlined his fears ahead of South Africa’s clash with Ireland on Saturday night – but he still believes the defending Rugby World Cup champions will still manage a narrow Pool B victory.
The Stade de France fixture has enjoyed even more of a hyped build-up than the September 8 tournament opener featuring host France and the All Blacks and de Villiers has discussed what might unfold with fellow former Springboks talisman Victor Matfield and ex-Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer.
“I’m not feeling confident at all,” admitted de Villiers to Betway Insider. “I’m so worried about it because it’s so close. It’s so tight. It will probably come down to a decision, a bit of luck, and that’s essentially what you need to win a World Cup as well.
“There’s no doubt that this game will be decided between two contrasting styles, the defence of the Springboks and the attack of Ireland, and whoever wins that battle kind of wins the game. There’s not a lot in it between these two teams.
“On the day, weather conditions may play a part. If it rains, does it suit the Boks? Does it suit Ireland? Will they be able to play their attacking game from an Irish point of view? Will you be able to have that line speed from a defensive point of view? It really is one of those where, hey, can I go for a draw? That might just not be a bad call.
“Definitely the two form teams, currently the number one and number two ranked teams in the world, and it just makes for a monumental game. These teams would have been analysing for months on end going into this game, and also knowing what it means to go further in this competition.
“We’re sitting here today and still both those teams could possibly not make it through to a quarter-final, with Scotland also in contention. So it really opens it up and the interest in this game is huge.
“Everything that I have seen from both these teams shows that it will be a close game. Obviously, with the heart, I’m still going for South Africa, but I’m worried about the challenge that lies ahead.”
Matfield added: “I feel the same as Jean. I probably think the weather conditions can play a role. If the humidity is high as it’s been in France and the guys are all sweaty and the ball is wet, then South Africa might be the favourites.
“But humidity in Paris may not be as bad as down in the south and if they get quick ball, then Ireland must be the favourite. I’ve said it so many times, this game, the quarter-finals and the final in this World Cup could be decided by a referee’s decision, a yellow card or whatever. So it’s going to be about the discipline, not giving away any cards, but it’s going to be really tight.
“If you had said six months ago, Malcolm Marx won’t be there, Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, then we would have said we have got no chance in this World Cup. But this group have shown the depth that is in this squad is just unbelievable.
“A lot of people now that Handre is coming are saying, must he come over? Is it the right choice? Isn’t Manie Libbok certain of his position, the 10 jersey? Going with Manie and with Damian Willemse at 15, we’ll see South Africa playing a little bit more rapid. They won’t be as conservative as in previous years.
“I’m still worried, I’m not sure if we can beat Ireland at their own game with the ball in hand. I still believe it will have to be a set-piece battle. We need to dominate them on that gain line and we must get our kicking game right.
“I am a little bit worried about Malcolm not being there, slowing the ball down for Ireland because we know if Ireland get quick ball you are in trouble with all those options they have. The breakdown is going to be so important. It’s a massive game and it might be a referee decision, might be a bounce of the ball, but I think it’s going to be really close.”
How close? “20-17 to South Africa,” reckoned Matfield. De Villiers: “I’ll go 28-26 South Africa.” Stringer, though, was backing his former team. “I’m going to go 25-21 Ireland.”
Join free and tell us what you really think!Sign up for free