Jake White has backed the Springboks to win the 2023 World Cup, but says even rank outsiders like England and Fiji will be a threat for the defending champions in France.
The world champions will go into the tournament as the second-ranked team as World Rugby’s rankings received a major shake-up after the final round of warm-ups last week.
Twickenham was the scene of not one but two momentous matches less than 24 hours apart as the All Blacks suffered the worst defeat in their history to the Boks, before Fiji stunned England.
Also, World Cup hosts France in Paris handed Australia and Eddie Jones a fifth successive defeat this year.
With defeat to Fiji, England have dropped to eighth in the rankings – the only time the Roses have been as low as this before was in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup when they became the first host nation to be knocked out in the pool stage.
The record thrashing by the Boks of the All Blacks was an ideal way for the Webb Ellis Cup holders to serve notice of their intentions ahead of a title defence they start against Scotland in Marseille on 8 September, but writing for RugbyPass.com, White is cautiously optimistic about SA’s chances.
“What makes sport so intriguing is that you never know what boost you’ll get from winning a game and conversely what negatives you’ll get from a heavy defeat,” the former Bok coach, now Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, writes.
“For that reason, we’re about to find out a lot more about this current All Blacks team.
“Every Springbok fan is now super-pumped for this World Cup. Someone asked me whether the Boks could win the tournament? One hundred percent they can win it, but you could say that about a half a dozen teams out in France, even the outsiders, like Scotland, Australia or Wales.
“Will they win it? Probably not, but they could. Look at the Wallabies, they have barely won a game in the last two years. Look at England. They are bang out of form but a few bounces of the ball go their way and they’re closing in on a World Cup final.
“This last year has seen some incredible results. When you see what Fiji, Georgia and Italy have done and even Samoa, who gave Ireland fright last weekend. No-one knows what to expect which is why it could be the best World Cup yet.”
Photo: Ian Kington/AFP