CAPE TOWN – Damian Willemse’s World Cup debut against Canada is what excites me the most about a match the Springboks will win easily today.
Canada, awful against Italy, were brave against the All Blacks, but still conceded 63 points. They also failed to score a point against the defending champions.
I am expecting Willemse to cause havoc from fullback. Canada won’t have an answer to his attacking flair and it is this kind of X-factor that could see Willemse leapfrog Elton Jantjies when it comes to finalising the Boks’ matchday squad for their quarter-final.
Willemse offers greater versatility in being able to play at fullback, flyhalf and inside centre. Flyhalf remains his best position, but he is no less dangerous when playing at fullback.
Willemse was unfortunate to miss out on the original World Cup selection because of a lengthy injury lay-off. Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, at the time, said Willemse would be one of the first backline players put on the official standby list.
Willemse, like Cheslin Kolbe, offers South Africa something special on attack. It is near impossible to defend against either of the two’s magical footwork and in my ideal rugby world, I’d love to see the two playing off each other and in tandem at No 15 and 14 respectively.
I like the look of the Bok team that will play Canada and it again highlights the depth that has been built up over the last 12 months. Handre Pollard is easily the best starting No 10 in the squad, but in most other areas there is a like for like quality of player.
The Boks, despite their defeat to the All Blacks in their opening match, remain an impressive prospect and their dismantling of Namibia and Italy was convincing enough. I was impressed with how clinically Italy were despatched in the 49-3 defeat and while the score differential would have been less had Italy played the match with 15 players, the outcome would have been no less emphatic.
The Bok pack is the strongest in the competition and with a player like Willemse now in the mix, the Bok back division looks a lot healthier. Kolbe has been the back who has impressed me the most at the tournament, with 23-year-old England loose-forward Sam Underhill making a massive statement against Argentina.
The Pumas have been the flops of this tournament and France haven’t been far behind.
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Japan’s three successive wins, including the stunning upset over Ireland, has made for a spectacular story, but it could still be that they are eliminated if they lose to Scotland and don’t secure a bonus point.
Four years ago Japan also lost just one pool game, but didn’t advance to the last eight. They’ve won six of their last seven World Cup games and it would be cruel for them not to qualify for the knockout round this time.