The McLook rugby collection

A personal collection that tells the story of Springbok rugby

Departure and Arrival

Springbok send off in South Africa

Springbok arrival in NZ 

Springboks made welcome in Wellington

Collection of articles about Springboks departure and arrival in NZ

Analysis of main contenders

OPINION: I expect the usual suspects to be lined up when it comes to the business end of the World Cup.
There's usually room for one outsider in the quarter-finals but it's a heavyweight task to win the tournament, so let's look at the real contenders.

NEW ZEALAND
There's no need for panic - the two losses over the last two weeks are irrelevant. It wasn't a full strength team that went down to the Springboks and I don't think they had an ideal build-up to the Wallabies test, where half the side came back from South Africa and the rest flew over from new Zealand. There was also the major distraction of the World Cup naming. That showed in their first half performance.

The World Cup is a different beast and their focus will be well and truly there now.

Getting Kieran Read healthy is almost as important as performance during the pool play. His injury is a concern. I think he's as influential as Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. The only blessing to having him injured is we have better backup in the form of Victor Vito than we do at No 7 and No 10. There are precedents to carrying injured players into tournaments - the Brooke brothers in 1995 proved a success - and we desperately need his athleticism.

I see the All Blacks playing a slightly more pragmatic game - mixing a bit of steel with their elaborate play. They remain ranked No 1 and I believe home advantage is worth more points to the All Blacks than any team anywhere.

SOUTH AFRICA
The defending champions deserve plenty of respect. They come here with a team full of experience and including some true greats although its debatable whether they played their bets rugby a couple of years ago.

But they will be a tough nut to crack and the game has come back their way a bit with the way the rules at the breakdown have tightened.

They have wound back the clock with their style but that's the way they play - they have done it for the past century and they will probably play the same for the next 1200 years. It's also a style well suited to the World Cup as their 1995 and 2007 victories showed.

People talk about New Zealand v Australia as the dream final. But if things go according to plan the All Blacks will have to play the Boks in the semifinals - that might be the bigger danger.

AUSTRALIA
We all know they can play fantastic rugby and beat anyone on their day and they will take plenty of confidence out of victories over the Boks in South Africa and the All Blacks in Brisbane.

They have slick backs and their forwards finally fired up last Saturday in a performance that Wallabies great Nick Farr-Jones labelled their best in 10 years. But I still think they will need more to claim the cup. Have they got that in them? I'm not so sure about that.

I think it's a too early for this side. They have the ability to win one-off games but I'm not sure they have the emotional maturity to sustain that. They have to dominate Ireland in pool play and then negotiate three knockout wins.

ENGLAND
They have a favourable draw and history shows they have a liking for tournament play with a title and two other appearances in the finals out of six World Cups.

They could play the French in the quarter-finals and they seem to have their number. England certainly wouldn't fear playing Australia in the playoffs either given their recent record against the Wallabies.

I don't believe this is the best England team we've seen but they will rely on their traditional methods and this prudent approach will always give them a fighting chance.

FRANCE
As usual there are big question marks here. But if they can get their emotional balance right they can be unstoppable. The All Blacks have found that before, just ask myself and Richie McCaw.

A lack of consistency remains their biggest handicap and that's why their name isn't engraved on the Webb Ellis Cup.

That, and their lack of experience, means it will be difficult for them to go all the way here.

WALES
England may have won the Six Nations but Wales arrive here with the bets recent form amongst the northern sides.

They have an astute coach in Warren Gatland who knows how to play in New Zealand conditions and they will certainly garner plenty of support in the Waikato region.

Gatland's desire to mix a northern and southern approach seems to be coming right and I think they will play some fantastic rugby although a question mark hangs over whether they have enough firepower up front.

They have a tough pool to negotiate too with South Africa along with Fiji and Samoa who have given them more than a few problems in the past.

IRELAND
They come here under the radar a bit. They had big expectations four years ago but failed miserably to live up to that billing.

Without that burden this time I think they might go better. They had a wretched run-up to the tournament. They will be combative up front and with a desire to express themselves in the backs.

They won't lack for support either. Their games are spread around the country and I think they might find themselves as the Kiwis' second favourite side behind the All Blacks. 

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