Durban — As if the Springboks did not already know it, the weekend’s Six Nations action was a brutal reminder that Pool B at this year’s World Cup is indeed a pool of death.
IOL Sport’s Mike Greenaway checks out why.
· It is a fact that only two of South Africa, Ireland and Scotland can advance to the World Cup quarter-finals from Pool B, with respect to fellow pool-mates Romania and Tonga.
· On Saturday’s evidence, nobody can predict with any certainty which two it will be after Ireland were ruthlessly efficient in dispatching Wales 34-10 while Scotland the Brave showed they have the quality to back up their passion when they beat England 29-23 at Twickenham
· It was Ireland’s biggest win in Cardiff since they won 36-6 in 2001 and the perfect launching pad for hosting World Cup favourites France on Saturday.
· The Welsh will travel to Scotland with the only consolation being they ended up champions in 2013 after the opening loss to the Irish.
· Ireland showed composure and depth when they shrugged off late injury withdrawals to scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park and prop Cian Healy and raced into a 27-3 lead at half-time.
· Scotland’s starting line-up had a distinct biltong flavour, with boertjies in the front row and on the two wings. Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel were the props and providing the pace were Kyle Steyn and Duhan van der Merwe.
· The Boks will recall Van der Merwe well from their series against the British & Irish Lions but he seems to have become even better, scoring two scorchers at Twickenham.
· Scotland coach Gregor Townsend compared Van der Merwe’s first try, a superb solo effort, to something out of the ‘Jonah Lomu Rugby’ video game.
· The product of Hoërskool Outeniqua ran from inside his own half, covering 55 metres while evading five would-be England tacklers to score the second of Scotland’s four tries.
· It was England’s second successive defeat at Twickenham since they were booed from the pitch after being bullied by the Boks in November, resulting in the sacking of coach Eddie Jones.
· France visit to Italy on Sunday will be of great interest for the Boks given how brilliant they were in Genoa late last year, the game after they narrowly lost to France in Marseilles.
· This coming weekend’s Six Nations fixtures are Ireland v France; Scotland v Wales and England v Italy.