Former Springbok coach Jake White believes that the team is back on track following some rousing performances in the Rugby Championship.
After the Springboks’ wretched run of form across the 2016 and 2017 seasons under Allister Coetzee, which resulted in 12 defeats, 11 wins and two draws, the national side has been on an upward trajectory since Rassie Erasmus took over as coach.
The Springboks have since clinched a 2-1 series win over England and beat the All Blacks 36-34 in Wellington, their first victory over the world champs since 2014 and their first triumph in New Zealand since 2009. South Africa also produced a stirring display against the All Blacks in Pretoria a fortnight ago before suffering an agonising 32-30 defeat.
In his latest column for AllOutRugby.com, White said the recent performances and the subsequent reaction ‘confirms that the Boks are legit’.
‘We might not have all the stats that people would like to see, but it’s obvious that South Africa has turned a corner, in their performances and psychologically, and that will make other teams very wary of the Boks.
‘Six months ago, the New Zealand media would never have questioned the All Blacks, but after what happened in Wellington and Pretoria I read an article where they were talking about the World Cup opener against South Africa being like war because whoever loses that match will probably have to face Ireland in the quarter-finals.
‘Everyone understands that the 2019 World Cup opener against New Zealand is almost like a knockout game. But what’s changed over the past six months is that the showdown is now looking like a genuine contest – the result is no longer a foregone conclusion. And what’s nice is that view isn’t coming from within the Bok camp, outside voices are saying it about South Africa.
‘The one thing Rassie has continually said is that his plan is to make sure the team is ready for 2019. He knows the first game against New Zealand is the one he has to be ready for and, if you measure what he’s done this year, there’s enough there to say the Boks are on track.’
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images