Wales face a strong South Africa side tomorrow. Will the boys in red be able to pull off a win and set the standard for the rest of the campaign?
Wales go into tomorrow’s match against the reigning World Champions in an interesting position. They have 4 British Lions injured (not including Gavin Henson), an inexperienced Scarlet at number 10 – and the opposition starting team are the most capped side in the history of the sport. No challenge there then.
The biggest surprise in the Welsh line-up is the appearance of Rhys Priestland at outside half. Most either expected him to start at full-back or on the bench, but Gatland has taken a big gamble and put his faith in the young man from Carmarthen. Hook slots in at 15, and the rest of the team is pretty much as expected – apart from the inclusion of Dragons Captain Luke Charteris over Bradley Davies. This has shocked many including myself – Bradley has been a mainstay in this Welsh team over the past year and his ball carrying skills will be badly missed in the game.
Most of this team is fairly inexperienced compared to the Springboks. The men in green have a massive 815 caps in their team – including 9 players who played in the 2007 final. That experience will count for a lot in these crucial pool matches. They know what they need to do, and they know how to implement it.
The simple question is – what do Wales need to do to stop the Springboks? Everyone knows South Africa aren’t an attacking team. Their strengths lie in the set-piece and the kicking game. Wales will be glad Bakkies Botha is out – but they will still need to contend with arguably the best lineout player in the world – Victor Matfield. With Gethin and Matt Rees out, our forwards will need to front up at scrum time, against a big pack.
The awesome defence Wales have employed recently needs to be on top form tomorrow. If you let the Boks get penalties and territory, you will almost certainly lose the game. In Morne and Frans Steyn, they have two huge kickers. Penalties and Drop Goals from fifty metres are no problems for these two. Keep your discipline, and limit the space, and these two will not get the opportunities they need.
If Wales can do all that, and play to their potential, they should win. South Africa have an aging team, and Sam Warburton and his youthful team should exploit that – especially with their superior fitness levels in the closing stages of the game.
No problem with anybody disagreeing; but, IMHO, it should be based on fixed principles, not a dislike of individuals, which sways a decision on the rights or wrongs of any given situation. E.g. if it's OK for Martin Johnson, then it should be equally fine for Warren Gatland or A.N. Other!
I think every referee has strengths and weaknesses in applying the laws of the game. Barnes is no different. If we really wish to see games more consistently refereed at the highest level, greater use of technology and/or assistant referees has to be introduced, IMO.
In some ways, arquero, I think the reverse is true. It is the technology that highlights the inconsistency. There was a time when it was just down to opinion (no cameras, no replays) and people accepted referees decisions, even if they thought they were wrong. Now everything is viewed from several angles and everyone one expects a definite 100% correct answer on every play.
We can't turn the clock back though, and as the technology is there we have to use it. I'm not sure, however, that rugby doesn't lose more than it gains in the process.
Good point, which I accept to a degree, but I still watch the game at grass roots level, and it is clear even without any technology other than one's own eyes that some referees are actually inconsistent in their application of the laws. We still accept the referees' decisions, (sometimes with a little griping), not least because we realise what the game would descend into without the all important "man in the middle". It's true, though, that sometimes I find myself subconsciously looking up for the instant replay, even when there's only me and a man with his dog watching the match!
But the fact is that the sport at top level is subject to instant, and constant, replay, as well as endless debate with- quite often- damning evidence. As the spoils of winning are much greater these days, and increasing still, it's important that result changing decisions are correctly called, or reviewed and changed by the TMO where appropriate, IMHO. After all, New Zillunders are still going on about Wayne Barnes 4 years after their defeat to France, and I'm sure there are examples going back even further.
Arquero, I still play at grass roots level (although that's in a little bit of doubt since popping my AC joint yesterday.) Yes, referring is inconsistent but as while playing I've always adopted the attitude that, as you say, we wouldn't have a game without the man in the middle, so it's best just to let him get on with it. Or perhaps her - as there are now several (and many of them very good) lady referees.
As regards that pass by France four years ago, yes it yes forwards. However so was one earlier in the game which eventually resulted in a try for NZ: quid pro quo.
For what it is worth I don't condemn Barnes for not seeing the forward passes in the game but I do think he was wrong to ignore the continuous offside by the French for the last 35 minutes of the game.
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