What If … Wales had beaten South Africa?

So … that was the World Cup that was. New Zealand, the best team in the tournament, won it, but lost the final. A monumental choke didn’t cost them because of an absolutely shameful performance from Joubert. Example: on 76 minutes, the following happened:
  • Jerome Kaino leaps over a ruck and grabs the ball. Cue French demands for a penalty
  • Joubert: Leave it!
  • Kaino throws the ball back on the French side
  • Joubert: Ball is out!
  • NZ compete and ultimately force a knock on
Appalling. We have no desire to harp on about refereeing, but its really not acceptable. Anyway, we aren’t here to talk about Craig Joubert, we are here to talk about New Zealand.
So, they are a brilliant side, but they aren’t that good when forced to manage with Andy Ellis and Beaver at half-back – not that surprising – how would Ireland fare with Isaac Boss and Niall O’Connor pulling the reins?
Here at Whiff of Cordite, we think there was only one other side apart from France capable of beating the Blacks – the mighty Springboks. The rest of the Northern Hemisphere sides would have supinely surrendered, and we saw how easily the Wallabies were swatted aside in the semi-final.
With South Africa, you can be assured of 80 minutes of high intensity and physicality. You can also be certain that, like France, they genuinely believe they can beat New Zealand, and will plan accordingly.
“What If?” scenario 1 is an obvious one, that South Africa managed to turn territory into points against Australia, and go through to a semi-final, but we thinking the more interesting one is below, as later was better to play New Zealand.
This scenario goes back over 6 weeks, to September 11, when a late Francois Hougaard try helped the Boks squeeze out Wales 17-16. We’re not sure if we can get it down to one moment – P Divvy deciding to keep faith with the underperforming Bryan Habana maybe – but lets say Wales managed to close out the game – how would the tournament have panned out?
On the Kiwi side of the draw, we don’t see much impact – even if Wales managed to beat Australia (which they didn’t last Friday), they would not have beaten New Zealand. In the top half, South Africa would have been pitted against Ireland. There is a reasonable chance Ireland would not have been as sloppy as they were against Wales if faced by dark green jerseys, but the performance was way below what was required to beat the Boks – SA victory.
Next round, its France. And it isn’t France of the final, its France of the semi-final – who, to be brutally fair, were desperate. Save Heinrich Broussow being rightly red carded for a tip tackle on Vincent Clerc in the 17th minute by the half-French and arrogant (copyright Barnesy) Alain Rolland, the Boks would have done it.
Now it’s the final – and the New Zealand nerves are starting to jangle. Your average South African rugby man does not have an inferiority complex regarding anyone, never mind the black shirt, and the ferocity and clarity of purpose shown by France would most likely have been replicated.
On the other hand, France have dimensions that South Africa don’t – you don’t need to worry about Morne Steyn breaking the line and looking to offload the way Francois Trinh-Duc did – but the manner of the New Zealand collective panic gives South Africa a chance.
And, finally, the trump card. Picture the scene – 76 minutes have gone, New Zealand are a point up but South Africa have possession, it’s a ruck about 35 metres from the NZ posts. Jermone Kaino leaps over the ruck and grabs the ball. Instead of “Leave It”, you hear “Penalty Green”. Craig Joubert, watching in the stand, leaps up and cheers – Alain Rolland has just awarded his fellow countrymen a penalty 35 metres out, with 4 minutes to go, and the most reliable goal-kicker in the world has the ball in his hands……

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1 Comment

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