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We don’t need Wilkinson’ says Joost

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The game between SA and England is being touted as the most crucial of all the pool games at RWC 2003. The winner will have a relatively easy passage into the semi-finals, with either one of Wales, Canada or Italy waiting in the quarter-finals. France – or Ireland – would then look as possible semi-final opponents.

All fine and dandy for the winner, but the loser will have to face New Zealand in the quarter-finals and probably the current world champions, Australia, in the semis – if they get past the Kiwis, of course …

Van der Westhuizen, despite his advancing age, is once again shaping up as a key man in Saturday's encounter with England, having led the Boks to an unlikely win over the English in the 1999 World Cup quarter-finals.

He is the most experienced member of the Bok backline, his major task no doubt being to look after his fly-halves on Saturday – be it the hard-working Louis Koen or youngster Derick Hougaard, two players whom many believe are not fit to lace Jonny Wilkinson's boots.

Surely, then, a player of Wilkinson's calibre would make life a lot easier for the Boks? Or what about having the steely presence of one Martin Johnson in the Bok second row?

"No, I don't believe that. No not at all," Van der Westhuizen told zurichpremiership.com. "We've still got top players in our country … some of the best in the world."

Van der Westhuizen, like England coach Clive Woodward earlier this week, also scoffed at suggestions that Saturday's encounter would be a repeat of the spiteful clash between the two sides at Twickenham in November last year.

"Rugby is a contact sport," he said, "but that [foul and dirty play] might not be what we want.

"We are going to be aggressive and we are going to have attitude. But it will be within the rules. That is the most important connection, to stay within the rules."

He added that there were a lot of similarities between the Boks' build-up to RWC 2003 and his first World Cup experience, back in 1995 when South Africa walked away with the crown.

While Van der Westhuizen is the only remaining playing member of that squad from 1995, current Bok coach Rudolf Straeuli was a member of Kitch Christie's side, coming off the bench in the Final against the All Blacks as a replacement for Mark Andrews, whom Christie had moved to No.8 in the semi-finals to ease SA's line-out woes.

"It is very much the same this year as back then ['95]," said Van der Westhuizen. "We've had some very tough preparations and a very tough build-up. Things didn't go as smoothly as we wanted and we struggled in the warm-up games.

"The good thing is that I was there [in '95] and I know what to expect. I can help the younger players. We [the Springboks] are up for it. We are ready for it!"


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