Wales, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, England and Australia have identifiable paths to winning the William Webb Ellis Cup.
One can go back to schoolboy rugby where you can still hear the coaches telling you that all matches matter.
For fans, that’s old school. We can afford to mentally write-off certain matches. That’s what many All Black fans did two weekends ago after the All Black loss to the Springboks in Wellington.
We heard how the real winner was rugby union, how this was a needed tonic for the mighty All Blacks and how it came at the right time for SA Rugby.
With the long shadows of the setting Highveld sun cast over the Loftus Versfeld pitch, the Springboks and All Blacks will once again go at it this coming Saturday. The ABs have secured the Championship, but when it comes to the Bok-AB rivalry, this match has more riding on it than any other since these two sides played at Twickenham for rights to play in the World Cup 2015 final.
A Springbok win puts a solid marker down than it can accomplish back to back victories against the All Blacks, something no other side has done since the Boks last accomplished this feat back in 2009. A Springbok win, perhaps most importantly, demonstrates that this is indeed a team on the rise and that it can beat the world’s best rugby side with significant ball possession.
It is hard to see this All Black squad being defeated consecutively by the same side with less than 50% ball possession. Against the Pumas last weekend, All Black coach Steve Hansen clearly reigned in his players from the free-range style of play that was evident over the last couple of Championship seasons.
The pace of their play was notably slower and while this may not have made for as entertaining a match, the word was clearly out: Leave no chance for the opposition to score against the run of play.
The Boks know full-well that this time around there will be no offerings in the gift-giving department. To secure a victory on Saturday, the Boks will have to play 80 minutes the old-fashioned way: maintain possession, win their own lineouts and scrums and tackle well.
Sometimes old school is the best school.