Despite taking a major step towards qualifying for the World Cup quarter-finals, the Springboks are still vulnerable to a shock early exit from the tournament.
South Africa at least temporarily climbed to the top of Pool B by scoring seven tries to earn a bonus-point victory over Tonga on Sunday night.
The Springboks have completed their pool schedule and, while they’ll begin preparing for quarter-final weekend (14 and 15 October), the world champs must keep a sharp eye on the clash between Ireland and Scotland on Saturday.
The match between the two Six Nations sides will have a major impact on the final standings in Pool B and a freak result could even see South Africa knocked out.
Final Pool B permutations at #RWC2023 with Ireland v Scotland the only match that impacts quarter-final qualification.
4-0 or 5-0 win for Scotland puts them through (with SA).
5-1 win for Scotland – it’s complicated…
All other results put Ireland & South Africa through. pic.twitter.com/dqz8InuVZC
— Kevin Millar (@topofthemoonGW) October 1, 2023
What happens if Ireland win?
Any margin of victory for Ireland would see them retake top spot in the pool, with the Springboks finishing second and progressing to the playoffs.
Even if Ireland only get four log points from the match, they would finish above South Africa on the head-to-head rule.
What if Ireland and Scotland play to a draw?
For the Springboks, a draw in Saturday’s match in Paris is as good as an Ireland win.
It doesn’t matter if one or both Ireland and Scotland score four tries, a draw would still see Ireland finish first and the Springboks second.
What happens if Scotland grab a shock victory?
This is where things get interesting, and complicated.
The only scenario that would see the Springboks eliminated is if Scotland score four tries in beating Ireland by at least a 21-point margin, and Ireland clinch a four-try bonus point in defeat.
This would see all three teams finish level on 15 points. Scotland would finish ahead of Ireland and South Africa on points difference, while Ireland would then edge South Africa on the head-to-head rule. It’s complicated.
“That would be extremely disappointing…”
– The extraordinary Pool B match-fixing suggestion put to Jacques Nienaber in the final question of his Sunday night post-match Springboks briefing. #Springboks #RSAvTGA #RWC2023 #IREvSCO pic.twitter.com/qrDjCcxEnU
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2023
Scotland will qualify for the playoffs if they grab five log points, even if they fail to beat Ireland by 21 points, as the result would see South Africa win the pool (on points difference) and Ireland eliminated on head-to-head.
The Springboks will also finish top of Pool B if Scotland beat Ireland and deny them any bonus points.
Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP