The Springboks have been to hell and back since losing to New Zealand in the semi-finals in 2015, writes JON CARDINELLI in SA Rugby magazine as part of the extensive World Cup preview.
A series of humiliating defeats – from the worst-ever loss at home to the All Blacks to the record away defeats in Italy, Wales, New Zealand and Ireland – culminated in South Africa dropping to seventh in the World Rugby rankings in early 2018.
It’s taken a massive effort by coach Rassie Erasmus and the players to get the team back to a point where they can compete with the best sides on the planet. The Boks scored an impressive series win against England in early 2018, as well as a landmark victory in New Zealand in the subsequent Rugby Championship.
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The Boks have been more consistent in 2019. In the Rugby Championship, they followed up a win against Australia with a draw with the All Blacks in New Zealand. An emphatic 46-13 victory against the Pumas in Argentina earned them their first major trophy since 2009. The Rugby Championship title should be viewed as a sign of progress.
Indeed, top teams such as the All Blacks, England, Ireland and Wales will have noticed how far the Boks have come on defence and attack in a short time.
The Boks will face the All Blacks in Yokohama on 21 September in what is being dubbed the clash of the World Cup pool stage. The winner of that game should go on to top Pool B and – in theory – face a less-daunting quarter-final opponent.
The Boks should be too strong for Namibia when the two African sides clash in Toyota City. While South Africa suffered a historic loss in Florence three years ago, one cannot see Italy – who have been woeful in recent seasons – scoring another upset when the teams meet again in Shizuoka. Another big win against Canada in Kobe will secure South Africa’s ticket to the playoffs.
A loss to the All Blacks may see the Boks finishing second in Pool B and facing the winner of Pool A in the quarter-finals. Ireland will be favourites to top that group, provided they deal with Scotland and hosts Japan.
A victory against the All Blacks may see the Boks topping Pool B and facing the runners-up of Pool A. Victory for Scotland against Ireland in the pool stages, however, could make a mockery of all pre-tournament playoff predictions.
Regardless of who they face, the Boks will have a tough road to the final.
– This is a snippet from October issue of SA Rugby Magazine that previews every team at the World Cup, now on sale!
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