Watching England’s painful exit from the Rugby World Cup in the pool stage has served as a motivation for South Africa to avoid such misery so early in the competition, says Schalk Brits.
The Springbok hooker will be on the bench for his side’s final Pool B game against the United States today, where defeat could see them booted out of the competition if other results go against them.
Brits, who has plied his trade at English club Saracens since 2009, said he has sympathy for players he counts as friends off the pitch, if enemies on it.
“We have a chat group for the Surrey boys and I told them [the England players] that I feel for them,” he said. “I think the World Cup is poorer without them. I would have liked to see them doing well, though not better than us, of course! They are a great bunch of players and individuals, but they will grow and learn out of this. It will be interesting to see what is going to happen with their coaching and the team going forward. After 1999, when they didn’t do so well, they built on that and won in 2003.”
Brits said watching England’s misery has brought home what it would mean for South Africa, World Cup winners in 1995 and 2007, to also exit early, a possibility raised by their shock 34-32 defeat against Japan in their opening pool game.
“If we lose another game then we could be out of the World Cup and that would be a disgrace, as a South African side and a nation that is so proud about rugby to not make the playoff games, especially in the pool we have got.
“For us, [coach] Heyneke [Meyer] has been hammering the point that we are under pressure and we have our backs against the wall and every game is now a final for us. The focus is just to perform.”
Brits knows many of the US players and counts among his Saracens team-mates prop Titi Lamositele, lock Hayden Smith and full-back Chris Wyles.
“They have a great work ethic and won’t stop fighting,” Brits added. “They work well together and put a lot of teams under pressure.
“They maybe don’t have the experience yet to finish teams, but they will believe they can beat us if Japan can.”
It’s all about discipline
The citing commissioner has added two more Samoans to the naughty list for alleged foul play against Japan at the weekend.
Alesana Tuilagi’s misdeed took place in the second minute of the game, he is accused of striking an opponent with his knee. Faifili Levave has been accused of playing an opponent without the ball in the 15th minute of the match. He will learn his fate in a hearing this morning.
The other miscreant, Michael Hooper, received a one week/one match suspension after pleading guilty. He will miss Australia’s final pool game against Wales.
It has been announced that Britain’s Prince Harry is to visit Exeter for today’s game between Namibia and Georgia. The prince, who is patron of the All Schools rugby programme, will also be visiting local rugby clubs in the area to check on their progress under the initiative. It is not known whether Harry will be cheering the Georgians or the Namibians. Given the outcome for England, it is to be wondered whether either team would welcome his support?
Clean Bill of Health
You know a tournament has been unusually tough when a squad announcing a clean bill of health rates a breaking-news status. Rob Howley making such an announcement for the injury-ravaged Welsh became breaking news for the BBC scrumV twitter account.
However, Australia are not in quite such good health; in addition to the suspension of Hooper, winger Rob Horne is almost certain to miss the Wales game due to injury, while Israel Folau is also a doubt.
The England team today bids farewell to their training base at Pennyhill Park, according to The Daily Telegraph. As the team has been eliminated from the tournament, the luxurious base has to be handed over to one of the quarter-finalists. The facilities at Pennyhill Park were upgraded extensively by the RFU, with a new pitch installed.
As the hotels in use for the RWC are designated as neutral, England cannot prevent quarter-finalists from making full use of the facility, including its rumoured secret floor.
Fanzones prove a hit
Rugby World Cup 2015 continues to grip Britain with over half a million local and international fans enjoying the Official Fanzones across England and Wales, so far.
Fans are flocking to watch live matches and enjoy the excitement. This is in addition to more than one million fans who have already enjoyed the action in venues to date, a figure which is set to double with 2.41 million tickets now sold across the 48 matches.
The Cardiff Arms Park Fanzone is set to see 100,000 fans enjoy Rugby World Cup 2015 this week. On the opening weekend, Irish supporters in the Cardiff fanzone reported a Japanese fan getting a lap of honour around the venue on the back of an Irish fan after his team’s shock win over South Africa.
“Not only have we seen fantastic attendance at matches during Rugby World Cup 2015, with over one million fans already enjoying great rugby in our match venues, but the official fanzones are proving extremely popular with over half a million fans enjoying the celebration of rugby up and down the country,” said managing director of England Rugby 2015, Stephen Brown.
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