Peter Bills' World Cup Blog: South Africa stick with winning formula
Bob Dwyer won the 1991 Rugby World Cup as coach of Australia and he has remained a sage observer of the scene.
Sit down and talk with him about the game, as I have done this weekend at his home south of Sydney, and you are never distracted, never bored. The man just oozes good, simple ideas about the game and the status it currently enjoys.
The Rugby World Cup? “New Zealand have established their game at a level not many others have achieved over the last few years” he said, as we chatted. “However, I do think the Australians have closed the gap significantly and could go close in this World Cup.”
But Dwyer does not buy into the theory that this 7th World Cup, which begins in Auckland this Friday, is likely to be a straightforward New Zealand victory parade. “Not at all” he insists.
“You would have to say Ireland have the potential and ability to make some serious progress in this World Cup. They may not have had a great run-in top the tournament but back in March, they ruined England’s Grand Slam hopes with a terrific performance. Brian O'Driscoll is a tremendous all-round player. His defence has to be among the best of anyone in the world.
“Then there is England, who have made good progress in the right direction and I liked the look of the French for spells of their two warm-up matches against Ireland last month. And then there’s the South Africans...”
Ah, the South Africans. In my view, their game has atrophied over the past four years as coach Peter de Villiers has waited that time to play a World Cup with largely the same personnel who triumphed in 2007 in France.
Surely the ‘Boks won’t be good enough when the game has moved on in terms of pace and creativity, I suggested. Dwyer may now be 70, but his antennae remain as sharp as anyone’s in the game.
“I’m not so sure” he said. “We know what sort of game they are going to play but who is to say it might not work again? It did in the last World Cup and the formula is the same.
“They have big forwards and a goal-kicking outside half. And in a World Cup that can take you a long way, as they proved in 2007 and as England showed four years earlier.”
Dwyer believes that, in a defensive sense, star wing Bryan Habana is now back close to his best. “He makes some tremendous tackles and reads the play so well. And his kick-chase is probably the best in the world.”
And what of Habana in attack? Dwyer smiled. “Well, I’m sure he would be terrific but they just don’t set him up, do they” he grinned.
Bob reckons this could be a great World Cup, the best for some years. And many of the coaches of countries at this tournament would doubtless love to read and digest the lessons from a new publication from Dwyer, ‘Bob Dwyer’s Coaching Manual’. It is stuffed full of common sense and good habits to acquire for rugby players and coaches.
Dwyer is a busy guy. This week, he is off to Texas to do some coaching and speak at rugby seminars. Then, when he gets back to Australia, he will prepare for a visit to New Zealand for the semi-finals and final of the World Cup.
More good solid rugby talk looms on the horizon, then...
You can read more of Bob Dwyer’s views at www.bobdwyerrugby.com