SOUTH Africa number eight Pierre Spies believes the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be the ‘closest ever’.
Speaking to The Observer, the back rower, who made 53 appearances for the Springboks between 2006 and 2013, said a number of teams had the potential to win this year’s showpiece competition.
But Spies has tipped Six Nations champions Ireland to cause a few surprises and believes an out-of-form South Africa should not be underestimated.
Observer reporter Geoff Berkeley sat down with Spies to get his World Cup predictions.
What are your expectations ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup?
“This World Cup is going to be the closest ever as there are plenty of teams who are putting up their hands to win it.
“Also, as it is in the UK, it is going to be a nice travelling experience for everybody that comes here. I just hope we get some good weather, so people can enjoy the rugby.”
How do you rate England’s chances?
“I think they will do well, especially as they will be playing in their own backyard. They have got a good squad and a good balance and they will have plenty of cheers coming from the crowd, but they will also be carrying some of the pressure of playing at home.”
Which country will win the World Cup?
“I think there are a few teams, but I am obviously routing for our Springboks boys. We have had a challenging year so far with injuries and obviously with a not-so good run in the Rugby Championship, but it has also placed us a good position as we will be underestimated.
“I also think Ireland are going to do really well as they have prepared well and they might upset one or two teams.”
Which country has the potential to surprise a few people?
“I think a side to lookout for is Scotland as they have improved massively in the past year and a half.
“It should be interesting as they are playing South Africa in their pool, so hopefully they will have an off day and our boys will get through easily.”
Can you give us a name of a player to watch out for?
“Out of the South African boys, Jesse Kriel is a youngster who made his debut this year and is an exceptional player, so I hope to see plenty more of him on the pitch and score some tries for the Springboks.”