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Last Updated: Monday, 3 September 2007, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
South Africa RWC team guide
A one-stop guide to all you need to know about South Africa for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Fixtures (Pool A):

  • v Samoa - 9 September, 1500 BST, Paris
  • v England - 14 September, 2000 BST, Saint-Denis
  • v Tonga - 22 September, 1300 BST, Lens
  • v USA - 30 September, 1900 BST, Montpellier

    Recent form: Two spankings of an admittedly second-string England in June suggested the Boks were coming to the boil nicely. But a home defeat to the All Blacks was a setback, and a reserve side lost their final two Tri-Nations matches in Australia and New Zealand. Thrashed Namibia in latest outing.

    Coach: Jake White. Early success after taking over in 2004 with a first Tri-Nations title since 1998, and can point to a victory over the All Blacks in each of his first three years in charge. Held on to his job after a poor tour of Europe last autumn, but likely to have had enough after the World Cup.

    Captain: John Smit. The World Cup could be the hooker's international swansong having signed to play for French club Clermont Auvergne after the tournament. Immediate success on being elevated to the captaincy with victory in the 2004 Tri-Nations. Good ball-carrier and a calming presence.

    World Cup pedigree: Former champions, they won it at their first attempt in 1995 having missed the first two World Cups during their sporting isolation under the country's apartheid regime. Beaten by Australia in extra-time in the 1999 semis, and lost to the All Blacks in the quarters four years ago.

    World Cup high: Winning on home soil in 1995, via Joel Stransky's extra-time drop-goal against New Zealand. Nelson Mandela in a Springboks jersey, alongside captain Francois Pienaar lifting the trophy, remains an iconic moment.

    World Cup low: Four years ago the scene was set for a classic quarter-final encounter between two of the sport's greatest rivals. But the Boks succumbed tamely, 29-9, to the All Blacks. Damaging revelations about a pre-tournament training camp led to the inevitable exit of coach Rudi Straeuli.

    World Cup legend: Francois Pienaar, the fearless flanker who led the "Rainbow Nation" to victory in 1995, springs to mind. But half-backs Joost van der Westhuizen and Joel Stransky were vital cogs, with roly-poly prop Os du Randt a cult hero.

    Present star: Blond bombshell Schalk Burger needed six months out the game after a serious neck injury last year, but the flanker's recent Tri-Nations outings suggest he is back to the form that made him IRB Player of the Year in 2004. Wing Bryan Habana (17 tries in 25 Tests) is also among the best.

    Maverick: Francois Steyn. The impish fly-half or full-back is usually used off the bench, and has the off-the-cuff ability to win or lose a match in an instant. Long-range drop-goals are a speciality; not afraid to have a go from inside his own half.

    Enforcer: Bakkies Botha. Uncompromising customer who has been accused of eye gouging and biting at various times in his career. But a very effective operator in the second row; his partnership with Victor Matfield is out of the top drawer.

    Strengths: A formidable pack, as always, provides a sound basis for optimism, especially the second and back rows. Plenty of power in the backs too with centres Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, and the devastating speed of Habana.

    Weaknesses: When other teams match their physicality, the Boks' penchant for an arm-wrestle can highlight their lack of subtlety elsewhere in opening up defences.

    Did you know? Flying wing Bryan Habana ran a 100m race against a cheetah in April this year to raise awareness of the endangered animal's plight. The cheetah, a two-and-a-half year-old female named Cetane, won, but only just.

    World Cup base: Paris (from 4 September)

    They say: "It's an exciting mix of players and I have great confidence in them. They will carry the flag for the nation during the tournament with pride."
    Jake White

    You say: "In my view SA are very over-rated. What have they done in recent games?"
    dlowpass on 606

    World ranking: 4

    Odds: 9/2

    Our verdict: Should top their group this time by beating England in their all-important clash. Likely semi-finalists at least; one of the few teams capable of beating New Zealand.

    Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.

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