The Springboks have returned to winning ways ahead of their test against USA with their last two Rugby World Cup matches in Pool B, bouncing back from a shock 34-32 defeat against Japan in the opening match of their campaign with a crushing 46-6 victory over Samoa before another confident display allowed them to produce a confident 34-16 win over Scotland.
Now top of the pool with 11 points, one ahead of the Scottish, the Springboks face the USA on Wednesday in their final group encounter before moving on to the quarter-finals of the competition if they progress as the first or second placed side.
With the USA match almost upon us, AFKSports reveals 10 facts about the battle between the Americans and the Springboks.
Sources: SARU, SuperSport.
Before the Rugby World Cup came to be, the Americans and the Springboks met for the very first time in a hush hush match that was organised in the US. After the Springbok tour to New Zealand in 1981, the South Africans visited New York to play a historical first test against the USA. For security reasons the match was arranged behind closed doors in secret, on a polo field at Glenville, New York. The only people in attendance were officials, a selection of media, the substitutes and security. The match holds the record for the smallest attendance (30) at a test match anywhere in the world, and the Springboks ended the game with a 38-7 victory.
The Springboks are currently top of Pool B on 11 points, one ahead of Scotland in second place following victories against the Scots and the Samoans after a shock loss to Japan in which they still earned two bonus points. If the Boks win against the USA, they will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition as the first placed side in their particular Pool, irrespective of what happens in Scotland’s match against Samoa.
The USA is a nation that is relatively new to the sport, compared to many of their opponents at this Rugby World Cup, and as a result, they have less experience against many of the top sides, but they have faced the Springboks previously on three occasions. The first one in secret was mentioned earlier, and the other two encounters also went the way of the South Africans, with the Americans yet to win against the Springboks.
Following on from Jan Serfontein’s (above) Rugby World Cup debut against Scotland on the weekend, there is another young gun who could make his debut for the Springboks in this upcoming match, should he come off the bench to feature against the USA. Rudy Paige has been selected amongst the replacements for this fixture against the Americans, and will be hoping to make an appearance at some point during the match. His Springbok number will be 869.
If the Springboks progress from Pool B, as is expected, they will face either Wales or Australia from Pool A in the quarter-finals. The final match to decide the winner of Pool A, which happens to be between those two nations, is yet to come, but the result will be of great interest to the South Africans, as they are set to play against to second placed side in the Pool if they finish first, or the first placed side if they end the group stage campaign in second position.
Bryan Habana has already been a handful at this World Cup, scoring important tries against both Samoa and Scotland so far. If Habana scores further tries against the USA on Wednesday he will further his own record of 61 test tries for his country. He also has the Springbok record for most career tries in Rugby World Cups, with an impressive 12 tries to his name, three away from Jonah Lomu’s record of 15. In addition, he will extend his record of 112 caps, making him the most experienced Springbok backline player with 113 caps (only Victor Matfield has played in more test matches for South Africa with 125 caps).
Francois Louw is set to record his 40th test for the Springboks when he turns out for the South Africans against the USA, while Trevor Nyakane could play in his 20th if he is called on to the field from the bench. In addition to the previous two players, Morné Steyn could play in his 60th test if he is used as a substitute during the encounter.
Veteran Schalk Burger is his team’s most capped Springbok in the flank position, having appeared in 76 tests in that role, while the USA match will be his 83rd for the Springboks. He is also the Springbok record holder for most tries in two positions, as a flank with 14 tries (having scored again against Scotland), and as a forward with 14, showing his versatility and value to the squad.
The Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the arena that will host the final Pool B match for the Springboks, when they will take on the USA. The venue has a capacity of 80,000 seats, making it the third largest stadium in England after Wembley and Twickenham. English Premier League club West Ham United play home matches at the Olympic Stadium. There will be another match taking place at this venue later in the tournament, as the Bronze Final is set to take place at this stadium.
For the USA encounter coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to field a very similar first 15 to the one that started the match against Scotland, with only two changes made, as Frans Malherbe and Lwazi Mvovo come into the side that will kick things off against the USA.
Starting 15: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Lwazi Mvovo, Handré Pollard, Fourie du Preez (captain), Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: Schalk Brits, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts, Rudy Paige, Morné Steyn, Jan Serfontein.