USA v. South Africa By the Numbers: What to Watch For

From the Eagles standpoint, the match against the powerful South Africa Springboks is coming at an inopportune time.

South Africa lost their first match. They now will have to play their best in every outing to ensure they have a chance to finish at or near the top of the pool stage and qualify for the knockout stages. That loss to Japan dropped South Africa to sixth in the World Rugby rankings. The Springboks haven't been ranked that low in recent memory and will be eager to move back closer to the top.

Since that first match, the Springboks rebounded quickly to beat Samoa by 40 points bringing their tournament to a level 1 - 1. Now the Eagles are the next team in their way.

The United States is winless so far in its first two matches. They lost to Samoa in the first weekend and then performed bravely against Scotland in defeat. They led the Scots at halftime by depending on sure, physical tackling on defense, and creative attacking on offense. They had to be disappointed to have eventually lost by a score of 39 to 16.

The Eagles will want to show that the team that was leading Scotland at half can play an entire 80 minute match against a top side and hope that is enough to get a win.
One advantage the Eagles may have is they will have had 10 days rest to recuperate from the Scotland match. That rest period should allow the U.S. side to prepare a solid game plan against the Boks. On the other side, South Africa will have played the same Scotland team just four days before facing the Eagles.

South Africa is an experienced side averaging just over 28 years old as a team, while the Eagles are just a little more youthful at 27. International rugby experience will favor the Springboks with each player averaging 42 caps. The Eagles each have 18. The team's players are roughly the same size with the Eagles weighing about four pounds lighter per man.

Motivation will be high for both teams. The Eagles have to be disappointed to be winless at this point in the World Cup and will be excited to get a win.
South Africa will be focused on reaching the top spot in the pool.

First Phase

One area to keep an eye for this match is the lineout.

The Eagle's lineout forfeited possession several times in the most recent match against Scotland. The U.S. won a disappointing 6 of 11 lineouts, a rate of only 55 percent. If the U.S. can correct the crooked throws, they will be able to give themselves a sound, steady platform to set up their attack.

Complicating the U.S. lineout issues will be competing against one of the best second row players in the world, Victor Matfield. At 38, Matfield is one of the older players in the tournament and one of the most respected. He has earned more than 100 caps and is still considered terrific in the lineout and in the scrum.

The Eagles will be satisfied to have won all of their four scrums in the last game while also disrupting Scotland's scrum, allowing them just a 78 percent success rate. The Springboks have been perfect in the set piece so far in the World Cup, as they won both their scrums in their opening match loss to the Brave Blossoms while winning 15 of 15 of their own lineouts.

Against Samoa, South Africa was also a perfect two from two in the scrum and 12 of 12 in the lineout. The set piece will be critical with the Springboks wanting to show their dominance. The Eagles will want to show they can compete with the world's best.