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Ex-All Black Jeff Wilson rejects idea of Springboks-Ireland rematch in the final

By Kim Ekin
Captains Siya Kolisi of South Africa and Jonny Sexton of Ireland prepare to lead their teams onto the field of play at the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on September 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Julian Finney - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Former All Black Jeff Wilson has bluntly rejected the suggestion that the Rugby World Cup final will be contested by Ireland and South Africa after their enthralling pool stage encounter.


At the Stade de France the world’s number one and two sides locked horns in a gladiatorial defensive contest with just two tries scored, one apiece. Ireland came out on top by 13-8 to take control of Pool B.

The intensity of the clash was at such a standard that many have predicted the two sides will meet again, which would only be possible in the World Cup final. Even lock Eben Etzebeth suggested they would get them next time “if” Ireland made it through.

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But ex-All Black Wilson, who caused a stir with his comments after the Twickenham Test by saying South Africa played “as best as they possibly could”, flatly rejected the idea of an Ireland-South Africa final.

“No, because we are not in it,” Wilson responded to host Kirstie Stanway when asked if this would be the final on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown.

“When it comes to a situation when it is a knockout game, essentially what it was for Wales and Australia, pressure changes the whole context of everything.

“Don’t get me wrong, this was a great contest and we saw plenty of it, but I think it gives you an idea of what it is going to take to win a Rugby World Cup.


“Both of these two teams went into this game and they turned down points, and I can’t see that happening when you get to a genuine knockout game.

“This was a positioning game, all this was.”

Wilson urged the All Blacks to focus on their Friday night game against Italy to secure a quarter-final spot in Pool A before thinking ahead to what it would take against Ireland.


“We’ve still got a job to do against Italy, we can take nothing for granted. They are a Six Nations side,” he said.

“But I think we now know what South Africa and Ireland are capable of.”

Sir John Kirwan said that Ireland answered questions about their legitimacy as the number one ranked side and labelled them now “the side to knock over”.


For the defending champion Springboks he was brutally honest saying that they had “taken a step back” and the weaknesses in their game were exposed by the Irish.

“I think it was confirmation of the rankings. We’ve said that Ireland are the best coming in, had they really been tested?” Kirwan asked.

“Yes and no, but that was their really big Test and they are the number one side to knock over and we’ve got to knock them over.

“I thought it was a step backwards for South Africa. I think we saw some weakness in their game, which I think is a good thing. Obviously their kicking they need to sort out, they left a few points on the patch.

“But if New Zealand play Ireland it is going to be that kind of match. It’s going to be close and you have to take your opportunities, win those special moments.

“But we are good enough. We are good enough.”

Wilson saw the funny side of Kirwan’s assessment after the backlash he received, “I’m smiling right now because it’s him that’s criticised South Africa. It won’t be me that’s copping it,” he joked, but Kirwan did not back down from his assessment of the Springboks.

“They took a step backwards, they looked under pressure at times and they didn’t look as confident as they have in the past. And that’s pressure right.”



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Roger 288 days ago

Can I add, Rassie and Jacques have been coaching the Springboks for close on 6 years now. Their game plan has always been to aim to win RWC 2023. There is no ways their losing to Ireland was a brain-fart because they didn't stick to tactics that they know has worked for them already. They didn't use their style like they did against ABs for instance. They also didn't use the entire bench.

The idea was they didn't want to show their skills and strategies so early on in the WC. They wanted to keep their cards close to their chests.
Also they knew with about a 95% certainty that France would top the log in their pool and Ireland in ours. And maybe the thinking was an extremely injured ABs team is not the side to face in the QF.

Having said that, kudos to Ireland for their win over the Boks. Neither team seemed to show what they were capable of and keeping their cards close to their chests.

Kalei 295 days ago

I agree with Smith there were several problems with the first 10 minutes of the game. We saw them struggle this summer and also with the first test match in not being able to immediately put the engine into full speed ahead. Against the big teams it's really going to kill them. They've got to get into that un noleash from the beginning mentality.
Other things that were problematic was a flat offensive attack throughout the game until Damian Mackenzie came in and because his style is a second curtain offensive back attack then obviously there is more opportunity to play make. Against these weak teams they can play flat in offensive attack but in reality it doesn't help their game go faster especially not when they come up against a more unified defensive wall like France South Africa Ireland will present. There are also some dumb kicks in that first 10 minutes, It improved where they weren't just kicking away possession but kicking tactically four possession or doing a deep kick and pressuring so that they get a return kick. However throughout the game we don't see many counter attacks and this is a team that can counter attack All of the players in the back line and especially that strong back three can run and gun the ball and they had space to do it. I'm not talking about an unsupported counterattack which the Italian player did right at the end. They have the means to run and gun. I also hate to see them in that first 10 minutes do the ruck ruck ruck rugby because this is a strategy they need to avoid with the strong teams who have better loose forward pack play again- it's about getting into the right frame of mind. Their strength is their fire back line with the support of a very strong offensively-minded back row and hypermobile pack and that's why they can play running gun ball in hand rugby with tactical kicks for possession.
However you could see the joy love and fun. And that made for a lot of dynamic moments throughout the game. They needed that. I thought the Fords did a great job of avoiding penalties especially in the first half because Italy is a team that normally will suck you into penalties as they're very reactive.
I love seeing some plays off of set pieces with the forwards I think they can do more of that off the back of not just scrums but also rugs and then continue to Make plays off of the line outs. Richie did a great job on conversion kicks That's 18 points right there and most of those were from the touch line so difficult angles. Obviously already severe and Cody Taylor played like monsters and the type 5 just had a great game. But again this is like a third or fourth tier team they were playing against. And Italy is a head case They desperately need a sports psychologist because they're so emotional and when they get down it's difficult for them to pull themselves out of the dump. The sports psychologist could really help them see that like life rugby is a sequence of events and each event is a new opportunity. They played horrible disjointed defense especially in the lanes around the offensive ball carrier and it's amazing to me that they don't just communicate about that and decide to do two men sandwich tackles if need be with the middle person floating to either side. Because of their size they're not really in danger of doing a head tackle when they do it to men tackle like other teams.
As for the back line I thought they played on fire and after that 10 minutes they did fantastic things in order for the All Blacks to get through the stronger pounding pack rugby teams like Ireland like South Africa and like France they are going to have to stay dynamic and not go into their bad habit under pressure which is to play pounding pack rugby which they're not as good at, and the other bad habit they do under pressure is to kick possession away so it was good to see after that first 10 minutes then start being more wise about their kicking because they need good tactical kicks.
Still overall I'm happy for them It was a confidence booster and we know they have a certain skill set I'd really love to see them create depth It's just a conversation that Aaron Smith and Richie can have in order to use a second curtain offensive back attack. Even when feeding the park in the loose play I don't see why they can't have a back inverted diamond to support and have flexibility in space to confuse and sucking defense and create holes That's the point of having steeper stagger.
I love Richie I think he's fantastic I don't really compare him to Damian but I do like the Damien uses that second curtain back offensive attack and that he always follows to keep the ball alive. I don't think his foot in general is as good as Richie's on difficult penalty kicks or difficult conversion kicks and when he is in at first five I do think that he should probably let Beaudie take the kicks. He's fine but I just think you know at the World Cup Just go with a better stats where you can.
Anyway had soft again to about all blacks I hope that they can keep up their dynamic style of play start the engine fast and avoid that pounding pack rugby and that the pot can just avoid penalties and make sure they give clean ball offset pieces and off of rocks and prep for stopping the maul. I'd like to see them in corporate dynamic plays But to be honest just giving clean ball is so much and then making sure to offensively support and communicate on defense since it's a much more difficult defensive structure you have to run against the strong teams. Also you know what let's do some quick tops within the 5 m line and definitely when we're getting those big bombers let the back three do counter attacks.
Holomua e All Blacks!!

Brent 296 days ago

So Flatcoat, you replied to me " who cares?? Italy are useless.." then delete the post. Why is that ? Is it maybe because that they are not as useless as you think. After all if they are so useless as you make out how come this year the biggest losing margin before this one was only 17 points against England. Seriously dude every team can have a bad day, so to write off any team because they underperformed is just asking for it.

Brent 296 days ago

So where do you stand now Rouan with stating that the All Blacks are "powder puff". When did Ireland ever put over 90 points on Italy? What you say ? Never? Guess you might have to humble yourself

Rouan 297 days ago

Ireland are going to knock out the powder puff All Blacks in the quarters

Brett 297 days ago


Such hatred for the Boks. Ireland rightly won and were the better side. A Marx-less Bok team look far less potent.

That being said, there is a certain level of anti-Bok attitude after the Boks smashed NZ.

Shame, hard to handle not being the worlds best team

patrick 297 days ago

Somebody please Save rugby and knock out the boks

Riekert 297 days ago

I personally think Jeff Wilson and JK is still upset what the boks did to them 35-7. Comments with boks cant play better etc. At the moment I would rather be a bok supporter then a AB supporter. That is just the nature of the elephant in the room one day your team is the best and the next day they lose with record margins. Sorry guys what you have to say is irrelevant World Cup only starts at playoff games anything before then is just getting you sharp, boks proved it in 2019. Boks - Ireland final would have like to play AB in the final but can't see them beating Ireland.

David 297 days ago

Wales quietly easing their way along their own path taking everything in their stride. That team is underrated, written off but scoring points at will with a stronger set piece than they ever had. I don't think they'll win the whole thing but it wouldn't surprise me if they reach the final. Write them off at your peril, they love being underdogs but have a lot going for them.

CO 298 days ago

Expecting the Boks to be knocked out by France, their backline is a shambles and now with no Marx their pack is struggling at key times like mauls close to the line.

The Allblacks are a hot mess, they keep selecting too many little guys and no idea why Roigard isn't starting and they've not gone with a six forward / two backs split on the bench instead of a redundant third playmaker.

They need to really turn up assuming they play Ireland in the quarter, if they do then a win by 30 or so points is likely as the Irish really rode their luck against the Boks and deserved to lose.

However if the Irish can slow the ball down enough, milk some stoppages to allow their geriatric flyhalf to stay on the pitch the full eighty then they may make history and just sneak a win like they did against the Boks.

However we all know how much unfancied teams can lift at RWC and Ireland's history of quarter final choking is second to none, only arguably bettered by France's RWC chokes in finals.

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