Italy next up at World Cup for the Boks‚ what can go wrong?
The gravity and sheer fallout of a negative result on Friday against Italy perhaps makes the Springboks’ choice of hotel ideal this week.
They have left Nagoya‚ the third largest urban conglomeration in Japan‚ for the tranquil rural surrounds of Shizuoka prefecture and have checked into a hotel where the carpets are as thick as the corridors are wide.
Some in the travelling media pack have likened the elevated country hotel surrounded by trees and a golf course to the Catskill resort in the 1987 box office hit Dirty Dancing‚ while others see something more sinister and a closer resemblance to the Overlook Hotel in the cult horror The Shining.
The Boks may very well feel they are in the latter should they suffer a second ever defeat to Italy‚ which would effectively bring their Rugby World Cup campaign to an end.
The fact that they are in an area and in visual range of a nuclear power plant that has been decommissioned on account of the high possibility of it being afflicted by a magnitude 8 earthquake in the next 30 years serves to further highlight the prospect of peril.
But‚ they are playing Italy; what can go wrong?
Yes‚ they beat Canada and Namibia in pool play but before that they could hardly beat an egg.
The Boks have‚ of course‚ lost to Italy but that 2016 defeat is well and truly behind them.
That defeat came when South African rugby was arguably at its lowest ebb but they’ve been in relatively rude health this year.
That has been further underpinned this week by the fact that coach Rassie Erasmus may be able to have all his players fit and ready to go into battle.
Jesse Kriel‚ who suffered a hamstring strain and was not considered for selection against Namibia‚ is likely to return to the side.
He has a few hoops to jump through to confirm his availability.
And befitting of the occasion‚ the Boks will send their best available selection into battle‚ which means Erasmus is unlikely to deviate too much from the team that lost to the All Blacks.
After that match against the All Blacks there were question marks over the performance of among others scrumhalf Faf de Klerk‚ fullback Willie le Roux‚ left wing Makazole Mapimpi and flank Siya Kolisi.
Mapimpi played with more vigour against Namibia‚ while Kolisi also looked far more industrious as he laid another brick in restoring full fitness.
In De Klerk and Le Roux‚ Erasmus has players who are well versed in the machinations of the team and the coach won’t cut them adrift.
He wasn’t exactly swinging from the chandeliers when asked about Frans Steyn’s contribution against Namibia‚ and the coach conceded he will have to think long and hard about the composition of his bench.
With potential peril so close it is perhaps a week to properly apply the mind.