PORT EDWARD, KwaZulu-Natal – Former South Africa and Sharks centre Waylon Murray believes that while other teams have had metaphorical red carpets laid out for them at this year’s Rugby World Cup, the Springboks have travelled a tough road to the semi-finals and that should stand them in good stead.
Murray was a guest of honour at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Wild Coast Pro-Am dinner and shared a Q & A with fellow former Springbok and Sharks legend Keegan Daniel, which understandably was largely focused on South Africa’s semi-final against England on Saturday in Paris.
Murray, the current Director of Sport at Kearsney College just outside Durban, pointed out that the Springboks have been toughened and honed by playing against the likes of Scotland, Ireland and hosts France, while England breezed through their pool and were fortunate to beat Fiji in their quarterfinal.
“England have had an easier route to the semi-finals, while the Springboks have had some monumental games. So we could be a bit battered from all the collisions, but I would hope instead that it means we are battle-hardened,” Murray said.
“It’s all about how the Boks prepare and we know they will be ready, especially in crunch time. The Springboks and All Blacks are used to these pressure situations at World Cups and they showed their class in the quarterfinals.
“They know how to get up at crucial times and get over the line. Beating Ireland and France are no easy tasks, but that’s the beauty of sport, it keeps us on the edge of our seats.
“These knockout games are about who executes better in the first half, but they’re even more about who has the tactical edge to bring it home in the second half. There’s a rich history at the World Cup of small margins and big moments, like Cheslin Kolbe’s charge-down or Sam Whitelock’s crucial turnover after 37 phases,” Murray said.
Daniel, a loose forward who captained the Sharks during one of their golden periods, was certain that the semi-finals would be the end of the road for England and Argentina.
“I think the Springboks are favourites by a long way against England and New Zealand should be far too strong for Argentina. So it’s probably a Kiwis versus Boks final.
“Sport is very relatable to business in the sense that if your players buy into your philosophy then you will get the best out of them. And both the Springboks and All Blacks coaches are very astute.
“Every Springbok squad member understands their role, whether it is starting, coming off the bench or not even playing. They are all playing for the same purpose and there is a massive amount of power in that,” Daniel said.
Purpose is also a major part of Vodacom’s identity and Murray, who played more than 50 Vodacom Super Rugby games, praised the mobile communications company for their wonderful contribution to the South African sporting space.
“Vodacom have been crucial in enabling professional rugby and other sports to operate at the highest level. They have been exceptional sponsors of rugby and sport in general because they are passionate about growing sport in areas that have not been exposed to the highest levels yet. They can be very proud of their role in our country’s sporting success,” Murray said.