THERE are a few ways of looking at the Springboks’ draw for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 and you can either take the positive approach and take respite in the fact that the Boks should make the semi-finals or you can be a pessimist and say the Boks will have to create World Cup history if they are to be crowned World Champions in Tokyo.
On that last point, in the history of the Rugby World Cup dating back to 1989, no team has ever won the Webb Ellis Cup having lost a Pool game.
Well the Boks are drawn in Pool B alongside the defending champions in New Zealand, along with Italy and two teams yet to be identified – qualifiers from Africa and Europe, and both are likely to be cannon fodder for the three Pool B teams that have already qualified.
Let us be honest, with the All Blacks having won nine of their last 10 matches against the Springboks and with the Boks having won just four of their 12 matches in 2016, it is unlikely that the Boks are going to beat their old rivals in a Pool game in two years time.
You would have to be a betting man to put money on the Boks, or you would be betting on a change of coach at the Springboks and a re-energised Bok team under a world class coach.
So as it stand in 2017, form would suggest that the Boks will be runners-up in Pool B and that would mean a quarter-final against the winners of Pool A, and the form teams in that group are Ireland and Scotland.
If the Boks pull themselves together over the next two years, they might just beat Ireland or Scotland and make it through to the semi-finals.
Is that good enough for the Boks?
Well, it could have been worse. The Boks have avoided the Pool of Death, which appears to be Pool C, where one of Australia, France or Argentina will not make it past the Pool stages.
So are we South Africans going to be content with (hopefully) a semi-final finish or possibly a final against the All Blacks or are we putting our money on the Boks being the first country to win the Cup having lost a match in the Pool stages?
Again we are looking at form and it would seem that the All Blacks have a strong edge on the Boks.
Given the Boks’ woeful performances in 2016, will we have the same coaching staff in 2017? There are a lot of questions surrounding Springbok rugby two years away from the World Cup, and much could depend on whether the Boks win or lose the three-match home series against France in June.
In the meantime Allister Coetzee is the coach and he had the following to say from Kyoto in Japan where he attended the draw.
“As I have always said – to us it doesn’t matter who we are drawn against, because to win the Rugby World Cup, you have to beat the best teams out there,” said Coetzee.
“The pools consist of five teams each and history shows that you need to win at least three of your four pool matches to be sure of a place in the play-offs. We will focus on our journey towards the RWC 2019 and make sure we are ready and well prepared.
“We’ve been working hard since since the end of 2016 to ensure improved results from now on forward, with the Rugby World Cup on the distant horizon.
“If ever there was testimony of how the the gap between the top teams has closed, then we saw that at the over the past few months in the Northern Hemisphere. With New Zealand established as the number one side, there is also very little to choose between the top sides in the world, while the next batch of teams have to continue to improve.”
by Mike Greenaway
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