South African rugby
PDV out to prove world wrong
ESPNscrum Staff
August 12, 2011
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers casts an eye over training, South Africa training session, North Sydney Oval, Sydney, Australia, July 18, 2011
Coach de Villiers has come underfire for some unconventional training methods © Getty Images

South Africa will be out to prove the world wrong in a bid to reclaim the William Webb Ellis Cup come September.

The Springboks are ranked third favourites by the bookies to triumph but come into the tournament on the back of some miserable performances in the Tri-Nations. Peter de Villiers left a host of regular internationals at home for the opener against Australia a couple of weeks back and saw his side duly trumped 39-20 in Sydney.

Just one week later, the Springboks suffered a humiliating 33-point defeat to New Zealand. Not ideal preparation. The concerns over the state and readiness of the South African team heading into the World Cup has resulted in a public outcry that has even reached government level.

"If you do not change gear now we won't make it and we will be the laughing stock (of the World Cup)," MPs warned De Villiers during a recent meeting of the National Assembly committee on sports. De Villiers' preparations have also come in for criticism from Jake White, who was at the helm when South Africa won the 2007 edition.

White has been vociferous in his disappointment of the current state of affairs and the decision to rest so many key players, warning "there is a possibility they could lose all four Tri Nations games and have absolutely no momentum going into the World Cup."

But while the Springboks' preparations may be in question, few can argue with their brand of fast and physical rugby. The group of MPs may have labelled their playing style as "unsuitable" but South Africa are notoriously difficult to beat and De Villiers believes keeping it simple can reap rewards.

"Playing a tournament, your outlook on the game is much different," he said. "You go the conservative route more than ever and I'm really happy with what is happening at the moment.

"There's definitely going to be a big difference between playing a competition [Super Rugby] and playing a tournament [World Cup]."

Despite De Villiers' confidence, there are fears their second World Cup in Antipodean territory could go as badly as the first. The 2003 tournament in Australia was undoubtedly the worst of their four tilts at the crown as they failed to get out of the blocks, before the All Blacks comfortably overawed them in the quarter-finals.

The New Zealanders are likely to prove opponents once again in the knock-out stages, with the pair set to meet at the semi-final juncture. That is, of course, assuming South Africa get that far. There are fears De Villiers' conservative game plan could see them come undone against quality opposition, especially if they fall behind early on and the head coach admits there are some psychological issues in the camp.

"The guys don't want to stand out as somebody who made mistakes," he said. "Whenever they've got somebody on the floor, they don't go for the killer blow. There's a fear of risk."

But while the rugby union community rallies against De Villiers, the coach remains defiant about his choices and his side's chances.

"I am 90% sure that we can bring back the honours of the World Cup," he said. "I could not go against the guy (medical doctor), whom I pay a lot of money for his opinion, and say I don't need your opinion.

"Next year people will forget two losses but for four years people will remember who the champion of the world is."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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