Rugby World Cup
How well are South Africa prepared?
Andy Withers
June 11, 2015
Full-back Willie le Roux has missed a large chunk of Super Rugby through injury © Getty Images

Main Issues

The Springboks, when fully fit and in form, have depth in all positions matched (and bettered) perhaps only by New Zealand, but their strength and physicality can become a weakness given rugby has long moved beyond the bash and barge. Factor in their horrendous injury toll and a lack of worthwhile form from seeming selection locks such as Victor Matfield and Pierre Spies, and you have real cause for concern.

Squad Strengths

The traditions of South African rugby lie around strong forward play, big raw-boned back-rowers, precise kicking from hand and accuracy from the tee, but none of their Super Rugby teams - bar the Stormers - have dominated up front, while their second-best provincial team this year - the over-achieving Lions - attempt to play a different and more adventurous brand of football.

The Sharks and Bulls have each been disappointing this year - with key players well below par - while the Cheetahs have been lamentably bad so Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer may easily become reliant on his overseas-based stars, some of whom, such as Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar and Bryan Habana, have not produced their best form in Europe this season. Players such as Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Anders Esterhizen, Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds and Francois Venter who may make an x-factor difference, but one suspects that 2015 is a cycle too soon for them to be selected en bloc.

Injury Concerns

The Springboks are hurting with captain Jean de Villiers still in rehabilitation from his horror knee injury against Wales in Cardiff last year, injuries in Super Rugby to key players such as Frans Steyn, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux and Pieter-Steph du Toit. The fitness of the squad was illustrated best when 19 of the 44 players at the first Springboks training camp of the year, in Johannesburg in May, were unable to take full part with another five players taking part only in some drills, and the nation has only just commenced breathing again after learning that Duane Vermeulen did not require prospective season-ending surgery to correct a neck injury.

What the locals are saying

"The biggest threat is a manic fear of losing - something that Heyneke Meyer, judging by his contortions in the coaches' box, is prone to. It is therefore telling that Meyer has added Professor Pieter Kruger to his management team, a world-renowned specialist in mental performance. But, as the head man, Meyer is also going to have to buy into this." - Chris Waldburger, Mail & Guardian

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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