Stransky backs Boks

UP DIE BOKKE: South African rugby  team captain John Smit, centre, stretches with his teammates in Noisy le Grand, east of Paris. Pic. Francois Mori. 05/09/07. © AP.
UP DIE BOKKE: South African rugby team captain John Smit, centre, stretches with his teammates in Noisy le Grand, east of Paris. Pic. Francois Mori. 05/09/07. © AP.

Former South African World Cup-winning fly-half Joel Stransky is backing the three southern hemisphere powers, as well as hosts, France, to make the biggest effect at this year's World Cup, which kicked off on Friday.

Former South African World Cup-winning fly-half Joel Stransky is backing the three southern hemisphere powers, as well as hosts, France, to make the biggest effect at this year's World Cup, which kicked off on Friday.

Stransky, who slotted 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 tournament.

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," said the former flyhalf. "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 says 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 September 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," said Stransky.

"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 is the inability of the backs to be a creative force."

Stransky said South Africa will be hard-pressed by Tri-Nations rivals New Zealand and Australia. - Sapa-AFP

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