No porkies: Boks win could be written in the stars

Alastair HIMMER
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping to repeat the pattern of World Cup wins every 12 years (AFP Photo/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping to repeat the pattern of World Cup wins every 12 years (AFP Photo/CHARLY TRIBALLEAU)

Tokyo (AFP) - South Africa will be counting on more than oriental fortune-telling to lift the World Cup -- but for followers of ancient Chinese astrology, the Springboks could be worth a flutter.

Under the Chinese zodiac system, the year of the pig falls every 12 years and as such the South Africans should turn England into crispy bacon in Saturday's blockbuster final in Yokohama -- 12 years after their last title in 2007, which in turn came 12 years after their first.

"There's no reason we can't be a force in world rugby," said South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus, wearing a pair of bracelets on his left wrist in an attempt to summon the bravery of Japan's fabled samurai warriors.

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By his own admission slightly superstitious by nature, Erasmus explained: "One's from Oita, one's from Miyazaki -- fighting spirits."

England, still the only northern hemisphere side to win the World Cup after lifting the trophy in 2003, toppled defending champions New Zealand 19-7 last week to rob the All Blacks of their crown as the best on the planet.

The English look an irresistible force as they attempt to complete a Tri-Nations sweep after smashing Australia 40-16 in the quarter-finals.

But they face a seemingly immovable object in the face of the hulking Springboks, who have hit back from their loss to New Zealand in their opening pool game with a string of steely performances.

South Africa's first World Cup triumph on home soil in 1995 -- eight years after the first edition of rugby's showcase event -- marked a historical watershed for a country trying to heal following years of apartheid rule.

- Working overtime -

When they came up against an England side looking to retain their title in 2007, South Africa had a certain Eddie Jones working for them as an advisor to Boks head coach Jake White.

Now working his magic with England, Jones had suffered heartbreak four years previously as coach of his native Australia when Jonny Wilkinson's extra-time drop goal sank the Wallabies.

By a strange quirk, England have never won a major world sporting final without going to extra time.

Sir Alf Ramsey's heroes of the 1966 football World Cup were on course to beat West Germany inside the 90 minutes at Wembley before a late equaliser forced extra time and set the stage for Geoff Hurst to complete his famous hat-trick in a 4-2 victory.

Wilkinson's drop goal in 2003 came in the dying seconds of extra time in Sydney, while England's cricketers pipped New Zealand in this summer's World Cup final after both teams faced a "super over" each with the match deadlocked.

But Jones, who still has Bryan Habana's 2007 World Cup blazer, given to him as a keepsake by the Springboks legend, won't care a jot about lucky omens, star-gazing or South Africa's 12-year itch.

"Maybe I'll wear it," teased Jones, one of rugby's great wind-up merchants.

"I think it still fits me, I haven't put on that much weight since."

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