Pool A - South Africa
Similar to England, South Africa have reverted to their most suited composition – a large forward pack with a limited back line. South Africa have failed to ever produce creative mid-field players and rely instead upon strong direct players who agressively attack the gain line. But as recently proved, even in the pre-World Cup game against Connaught, removing that element from their game plan limits the Springboks.
Many believe South Africa is a sleeping giant as regards winning the 2007 World Cup. Although they have the best tight five in the finals, they are one dimensional beyond that. The majority of tries scored by South Africa in recent years have come from intercepts by fast outside runners like Bryan Habana. The Springboks' tenure in France may be cut short unless they can get those outside backs enough quick ball to bypass defences.
South Africa are on a good side of the draw. They will probably beat England to top Pool A and progress to the easier side of the draw where they avoid New Zealand.
Coach: Jake White (SA)
Captain: John Smith
IRB Ranking: 4
Appearances: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003
Odds to win: 5/1
Number of clubs: N/A
Number of Registered players: 464,477
Matches MT W D L
17 14 0 3
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
61 43 43 12
One of the key wingers of this year's tournament, Habana is electrifyingly quick and a very agressive tackler given his (relatively) diminutive size – 5'10” and 90kg. Habana has scored 21 tries in 27 tests since his debut in 2004, but whether or not Habana will receive enough free flowing ball to make the most of his strike force remains to be seen.
The best second row in the world, Victor Matfield comes with a good front five and a good line out thrower in captain John Smit, and will control South Africa's line out. Matfield is also very mobile around the pitch for a big man, and is known in the Southern hemisphere as the best line out exponent and will secure plenty of ball for the backs.
Approaching the end of his career, Montgomery nonetheless remains a key player. His selection has been much criticised in his own country, but he has earned 87 caps and is the Springbok's main goal kicker. By virtue of how South Africa play rugby, Montgomery may be relied upon to kick the majority of South Africa's points. Previous World Cup experience will help him.
Rugby in South Africa
A version of football which included handling, as played at Winchester School in England, was introduced to South Africa in 1861 by an Anglican clergyman, headmaster of a school in Cape Town. The first match was played the following year between the 'Officers of the Army' and the 'Gentlemen of the Civil Service'. Widespread condemnation of the apartheid system resulted in the Springboks being banned from international competition by the IRB in 1981. A desegregated South African team won the Rugby World Cup in 1995.