World Cup-winning captain John Smit says that England may present the biggest threat to the Springboks in the latter stages of the World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Most will agree that the Boks need to beat the All Blacks in the opening pool clash of the global tournament to secure an “easier” path to the playoffs.
If the Boks top Pool B they will play the runners-up of Pool A in the quarter-finals, which is likely to be Scotland or Japan. If they finish second in their pool, however, the Boks will face the Pool A winners, which is likely to be Ireland.
Smit feels that this may be a blessing in disguise, though. Speaking at the SuperSport World Cup launch in Johannesburg on Thursday, the 2007 World Cup-winner said that a loss to the All Blacks in Yokohama would not be a disaster and that Eddie Jones’ side will be difficult to beat in the latter stages of the tournament.
‘It’s going to be a really intense first game,’ Smit said. ‘It might be more important for the All Blacks than it is for the Boks.
‘I don’t really mind if we lose marginally to New Zealand. That way we will go on to smash Ireland in the quarter-final, beat Wales in the semi, and have a replay [of the 2007 decider] against England.
‘I think England are our biggest problem. They’re the toughest team out there.’
Smit went on to speak about the progress made by this Bok team over the past two years.
South Africa were a laughing stock in 2016 and 2017 following a series of record losses. On the back of a monumental win in New Zealand in 2018 and a Rugby Championship title triumph in 2019, it’s hoped that the Boks will defy expectations in Japan.
‘It’s amazing that we are talking about the Boks at title contenders now,’ said Smit. ‘A year or so ago we were hoping that the World Cup would be called off for rain.’
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