Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Stransky names his picks for World Cup dominance

AFP , JOHANNESBURG

South Africa's Schalk Burger, left, is tackled by Scotland's Chris Paterson during their match in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Former South African World Cup-winning flyhalf Joel Stransky is backing the three southern hemisphere powers as well as hosts, France, to make the biggest impact at this year's World Cup, which kicks off on Sept. 7.

Stransky, who slotted home the extra-time drop-goal to give the 'Boks a 1995 World Cup final victory over New Zealand, does not believe that defending champions England will be the force they were four years ago.

The English, under the guidance of captain Martin Johnson and coach Clive Woodward, beat Australia to halt the southern hemisphere's dominance of the tourney.

But it is Jake White's South African team, ranked the fourth best in the world, which is Stransky's pick to emulate the team of Francois Pienaar in 1995.

"If I were a betting man I'd put my money on South Africa," the former flyhalf said. "They're the complete side right now -- there's a good blend of youth and experience in the squad, pretty much like we had in 1995, and in the coaching staff and captain John Smit, there's really strong leadership."

"There's also tons of experience Jake can call on. A number of the guys have been to a World Cup before and many of them have played a lot of Test matches for South Africa," Stransky said.

Stransky said that while the 'Boks' build-up to the tournament has been good, there have also been setbacks which could play a negative role when it comes to the crunch Pool A game against England on Sept. 9.

"The way the team played against Scotland last weekend was really impressive. For 20 minutes they played world champion rugby and showed how unstoppable and unbeatable they can be," he said.

"The 'Boks are a powerful unit up front and that's what will be needed in the crunch games if they're going to succeed, but concerning the inability of the backs to be a creative force," he said.

"There's just not enough subtlety in their approach, but with the forwards doing so much good work that sort of thing may not even be needed," Stransky said.

The 'Boks completed their World Cup warm-up with wins over fellow competitors Namibia, Irish province Connacht and Scotland.

"With a few days to go before kickoff I really hope some more time will go into the backs and the way they attack the gain line," Stransky said.

"I think with [former Wallaby coach] Eddie Jones in the mix, the backs might start thinking out of the box a bit and be a little more street smart. Eddie will bring a new element to the 'Bok team, and I like it," he said.

Of major concern to Stransky though is the fact the 'Boks will head to France on Monday without dynamic loose forward Pierre Spies in their ranks.

Spies was ruled out of the tournament after coughing up blood on the training ground and later being diagnosed with having a pulmonary embolism.

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