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South Africa can be invincible, insists their coach – but they must avoid the ‘kiss of death’

29 Oct | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
South Africa can be invincible, insists their coach – but they must avoid the ‘kiss of death’

Heyneke Meyer must embrace the off-putting occasion of the third-place play-off if he is to get the opportunity to go one better next time around

It has already been the scene of many great sporting moments, from David Rudisha’s 800 metres world record to the golden displays of Usain Bolt, Jess Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah at London 2012.

What the Olympic Stadium has not been used to, in its four-year existence, are sporting contests which have been compared to “kissing your sister”.

That is the fate of Friday night’s Bronze Final at the Rugby World Cup, a clash between South Africa and Argentina to determine who finishes third behind finalists New Zealand and Australia.

“It’s mentally very, very tough because it doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer, whose side lost a nail-biting semi-final to the All Blacks last Saturday. 

“It’s like kissing your sister. The only thing that counts is being world champs, everything else is loser talk.”

Argentina, with one day less to prepare given that their semi-final defeat to Australia came on Sunday, will doubtless understand the sentiment. 

However, the Pumas also remember that winning this fixture to finish third in the 2007 tournament ranks as the greatest achievement in their rugby history.

They will not give up a bronze medal lightly.

The unknown in all of it is to what degree the Boks players adopt the attitude of their coach.

For Argentina, with injuries to four leading players and fatigue cutting deep into the rest, have been forced to make nine changes to their side.

South Africa, by comparison, retain all but two of theirs which started against New Zealand, with Victor Matfield coming into the second row in place of Lood de Jager and the injured Fourie du Preez being replaced at scrum-half by Ruan Pienaar.

Matfield is also handed the captaincy in what is his final match in a Springboks jersey before he retires from the international game and heads to Northampton in the English Premiership.

If he is motivated to go out on a high then so too is Bryan Habana, who had a day to forget in the semi-final and will be determined to make amends.

Not only that, it his last chance to take sole ownership of the all-time World Cup try-scoring record which he currently shares, on 15, with Jonah Lomu.

Interestingly, when Meyer, 48, named his team on Wednesday he had his focus back. 

The blinding disappointment of a semi-final exit had been replaced by a determination to leave the tournament with a medal to show for a campaign which would otherwise be remembered for that defeat by Japan.

He is all too aware of Argentina’s quality from August when they inflicted a 37-25 home loss on South Africa in Durban, the Pumas’ first ever win over the Boks in 21 attempts.

“I will always regret that I could not win the World Cup for my country, but I believe this team are going to get better,” said Meyer.

“This team will be invincible if they can go forward and keep them together.”

His chances of being the man to lead them on will greatly increase if the two-time world champions can finish on a high on Friday.

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