South Africa are no strangers to the RWC, even if they did miss the first two tournaments due to the apartheid regime.
Since their first win in their first tournament in 1995, they have amassed an incredible record, having won 25 games and only losing four, with 2 titles and a 3rd place finish from five tournaments.
However, 2015 has been a turbulent year, with the Springboks finishing dead last in the Rugby Championship, dropping games to the All Blacks and Wallabies, as well as losing a shocker to Argentina in Durban.
They have all the makings of a World Cup winning squad on paper, but unfortunately have not converted these into wins during the lead-up to RWC 2015 due to injuries and a lack of intensity.
Despite their shortcomings, here are three reasons why every team needs to watch out for the always lethal South Africans.
1. Unparalleled Physicality
The Springboks are perhaps one of the most physically unrivalled teams in the World Cup.
Not only do they train and play at altitude in South Africa, but they also have a pack full of muscle and grunt, all of which makes them one of the toughest teams, physically, to play against.
South African Prop, Tendai Mtawarira, known as “The Beast”, has incredible strength. He can bench press 155kg and squat 255kg!
Eben Etzebeth the 2.08m giant lock can bench press an enormous 175kgs and then also do incline press with two 80kg dumbbells.
Fellow lock and Springbok captain, Victor Matfield, can also bench press 155kg. He’s aged 38!
Bryan Habana, the flying winger has run 10.4sec for 100m, and even outran a Cheetah in a charity event.
Any team coming up against the Springboks in this year’s RWC will definitely know about it the next day.
2. History in the Making
This World Cup presents South Africa with a number of record breaking opportunities.
The Springbok’s have never played a test match against Japan, so the opening match for these two sides in the RWC will have added significance. Incredible considering how global the sport is now, that two top 20 nations have still yet to meet.
It’s also worth noting that the 2015 South African RWC side is the most experienced SA side in history, reflected by the team named to take on Japan this week, which has a total number of caps standing at 880.
Like Australia and New Zealand, South Africa are also on the hunt for their third World Cup, and are wanting to join Australia as two-time champions of the Northern Hemisphere.
Without a doubt, the conversations surrounding these stats have been taken on board by coach Heineken Meyer and his boys.
3. The Talent
On paper, South Africa has one of the teams of the tournament.
As mentioned earlier, their wealth of experience will be a huge asset as the team progresses into the knockout stages of the competition.
The likes of Bismarck Du Plessis, Matfield, Schalk Burger and Francois Louw in the forwards, are names that can go toe-to-toe with any forward pack including the All Blacks.
Their backline is one of the fastest and most dynamic in the whole tournament, as was shown in their match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park earlier this year, where the Springboks were unlucky not to walk out with a win.
Jesse Kriel, the young 21 year old centre, cut apart the All Blacks defence and will give the South Africans an added sense of energy as they approach the line.
Steady minds in Jean De Villiers, Bryan Habana and Morne Steyn will also help propel the South Africans into finals contention.
Very much a contender this year, the Springboks have a chance to go deep into the tournament.
They should top Pool B, and therefore set up a Quarter Final against the runner up in Pool A, which let’s be fair, could be either Australia, England, Wales or Fiji.
If they come up against the Aussies, its hard to see them coming out on top, considering the momentum the Wallabies have accumulated over the past few months.
If they play any of the other three teams they should very well dominate and book a place in the semi. Despite this, its hard seeing them as overall winners and I wouldn’t bet on them making it to the final.
By Matt Jenkins