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'I don't think Ireland poses any threat to us, neither does France': Bok legend dismisses RWC threats

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Former Springbok legend Schalk Burger is confident that South Africa can defend their Rugby World Cup crown after what he has seen on this year’s European tour.

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The Springboks lost their first two clashes in tight fashion to the world’s top two ranked sides, Ireland and France, before blowing out Italy and finishing with a dominant win over England at Twickenham.

Despite a 50 per cent return from the four tests Burger was buoyed by how South Africa played when assessing what to take from the the tour overall.

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“We want the Springboks to win every test, don’t we? But I think it’s more the way they played,” Burger told the SuperSport panel on the post-match show.

“Yes, this was sort of a tour defining game today, getting the result and shutting out England was what we wanted to see, and we did that.

“If we lost and played well, we would be disappointed.”

After seeing the way the Springboks dismantled England, Burger went as far as saying that Ireland and France don’t ‘pose any threat’ to South Africa at next year’s Rugby World Cup despite losing to them over the past month.

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France completed a perfect season with 10 wins from 10 tests in 2022, capturing a Grand Slam title in March while Ireland similarly had an impressive year after beating the All Blacks at home in a historic series win.

“If you look ahead to next year, I don’t think Ireland poses any threat to us really, neither does France,” Burger claimed.

“They are great sides, the games can go either way, we are not going to be blown out of the water.

“This team is not [going to get blown away]. So a massive positive tour.”

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“We’ve been negative about referees, we’ve had some bizarre refereeing displays, but I thought Angus Gardner and his team today put up a normal refereeing display.”

The Springboks showed over the final two games of the tour a more adventurous game with more emphasis on ball movement.

With more appetite to take on more risk, they had many wide movements from deep inside their own half against England to get the ball into the hands of Kurt-Lee Arendse, who dazzled with a stunning try on a kick return sparked by Damian Willemse.

Speaking pitch side after the win, captain Siya Kolisi said they had talked about changing and said the team decided to ‘risk it all’ before the game and try new things before next year’s World Cup.

“We said ‘we’ll risk it all, because you know it’s worth it’,” he said.

“We need to find answers before the World Cup, but at the same time, respecting them and playing in the right areas of the field.

“It’s not that much of a difference but we are seeing a lot more opportunities than we have in the past.”

On whether they can defend the World Cup title next year, Kolisi hoped that they had seen everything that will face so won’t be ‘shocked’ at the tournament.

“We’ve tried a few things but there is still a lot more we can do,”

“We are going flat out for it as a group. We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t think we were able to defend it.

“It’s going to be tough and face a lot of challenges this time, but I really think we’ve learnt so much about our team, got a lot of answers for questions.

“So going forward next year, I’m hoping there is not a lot that can shock us as a team because of all the challenges we have faced.”

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