THERE will be a handful of people in a corner of a South Yorkshire school this morning all hoping for a South Africa World Cup final win against England.
Andre Snyman first arrived in the Broad Acres as one of Leeds Tykes’ biggest signings when the powerful Springbok centre joined from Natal Sharks in November, 2003.
Indeed, he made his debut against Northampton Saints the same day England lifted the World Cup and proved a big success for Phil Davies’s side, scoring the winning try in arguably Tykes’ finest hour as they beat Bath in the 2005 Powergen Cup final,
After retiring two years later, he eventually moved to America in 2011, working for Glendale Raptors in Colorado but is now back in England, having become head rugby coach at Doncaster’s Hill House School whose alumni include, among others, Jeremy Clarkson.
Snyman – who won 38 caps for the Springboks – started work in August and is expecting some jibing once the new term begins on Monday if Eddie Jones’s side prevail.
However, he told The Yorkshire Post: “Funnily enough, we do have a really nice function at the school planned on Saturday morning when all the parents have been invited – whoever can make it – to watch the final.
“It’s going to be interesting. I think that myself and my wife and my two kids will be the only ones in the school hall with ‘green and gold’ so it’ll be fun.
“But my wife is a British citizen as well. She was born in South Africa and grew up there so has the love for South Africa but her mother was born in England so she is torn. It will be interesting to see what happens.”
South Africa have come under criticism in this tournament for their dull style of rugby and, as patriotic as he is, Snyman does not disagree.
“They do put it upon themselves,” continued the 45-year-old. “People want to watch rugby and not a tennis game; I just feel they do kick a lot.
“Whether it’s part of their game-plan, I’m not sure, as every time you kick the ball away you lose possession but have a 50 per cent chance of getting it back with a little bit of territory and putting opponents under some pressure.
“Nowadays, defences are so good that people aren’t running moves in the backline any more.
“Whether you run the ball into contact the whole time and get tackled, you have a 50 per cent chance of losing the ball there and getting turned over. Nobody runs away with scores at the top level but I think South Africa haven’t played at their best during this World Cup.
“They’ve just done enough to win their games. Yes, they had their big scores against Namibia, Italy and Canada but against Wales, Japan and their first game against New Zealand they didn’t play that well.
“Whereas if you look at the English team, I think every game they have got stronger and stronger, better and better.
“My heart says South Africa to win but my head says England will do it.”
It seems bizarre that Snyman – such an impressive international centre – never actually played in a World Cup. He was seen as too young when the Springboks famously won in 1995, making his debut against the All Blacks a year later, but missed 1999 due to an ankle injury and was then deemed by Rudolf Straeuli to be too old in the tournament after that.
That saw Snyman moves overseas – “Tykes was probably the best four years of my career and I was so fortunate Phil Davies got me there; it was fabulous” – before he headed back to the South African Rugby Union in 2006 in a bid to earn a place at the 2007 World Cup.
Coach Jake White wanted him in but off-field politics – “we had to have a certain amount of black players in the team” – eventually meant he did not feature again so he missed out on their second triumph.
Snyman is a real fan of England captain Owen Farrell and says: “I do like him at 10 (fly-half) but I must say he makes a brilliant centre as well.
“He gives you that option as a second playmaker; he’s not the biggest centre who will crash but has the power and strength if he needs to.”
He concluded: “I just think this England team wants it more; they’re hungry to win it.”