Eighthman Duane Vermeulen says high-flying France will be the team to beat when the Springboks travel to Europe for their end-of-year tour in November.
The Springboks will face France in Paris in what will be a clash between the current top two teams in the world.
In fact, many believe that the Six Nations champions, who ended a 10-year wait to claim a major title, have replaced the Springboks as the world’s best Test team.
The Springboks have not faced France since claiming a narrow last-gasp win in Paris in 2018.
In an interview with Daily Maverick, Vermeulen said the world champions have their sights set on France and Ireland as he anticipates tough outings against both nations.
“France are definitely the team to beat in 2022,” Vermeulen said. “They’re looking like a well-oiled machine, and we will have to be at our best when we meet them this November … Ireland aren’t far off either.
“It’s going to be tough to tackle those teams back to back, and it’s fair to say that we will have to make a step up from our performances in 2021 if we are going to succeed. It’s going to be a demanding year, but it may bring out the best in us.”
The Springboks have an intriguing Test calendar lined up for 2022, starting with a three-Test series against Wales in July, before the All Blacks play two Rugby Championship matches on South African soil.
“It’s in the back of my mind, and I’m sure other South Africans across the local teams and European clubs feel the same way. It’s going to be exciting when we come together in late June for our first training camp. We have a lot of hard work to do ahead of a big year for the team.
“There are going to be some challenges, and ultimately we are going to see where we stand a year out from the World Cup. It’s important that we make a statement, and that we go into the 2023 season with a good chance of defending our title.”
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