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'Very real chance' of Springboks getting bounced at quarter-finals says South African pundit

By Sam Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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A South African rugby scribe has highlighted ‘the very real chance’ that the Springboks could be headed for a quarter-final exit at next year’s World Cup in France due to the strength of competition they face.

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In a column for South Africa’s broadcaster SuperSport, writer Gavin Rich called the World Cup draw an ‘obstacle-ridden’ path to glory for South Africa after they were drawn in a pool with Ireland and Scotland, while having to face either France or New Zealand in a quarter-final.

This places all of World Rugby’s current ranked top four teams against each other at the first knockout round in what ensures two high-profile early casualties.

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“It is certainly a more obstacle-ridden path to World Cup glory this time for the Boks than the one they faced in Japan,” he wrote for SuperSport.

“A lot was made of their opening game in the 2019 tournament against New Zealand, but ultimately it didn’t have much relevance other than that Siya Kolisi’s team ended up playing hosts Japan in their quarterfinal rather than Ireland.”

South Africa lost their 2019 pool game to New Zealand, meaning their toughest pool stage win was against Italy. Their reward for beating the perennial Six Nations’ underdogs was a quarterfinal matchup with host nation Japan, still regarded as tier two by World Rugby.

Rich highlighted that the Springboks previous World Cup success also came with a beneficial draw, where Jake White’s side avoided all of the other top four ranked teams at the tournament.

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“You could say the same about the previous World Cup win under Jake White’s coaching and John Smit’s captaincy in 2007,” he wrote.

“The Boks beat Fiji and Argentina in their two playoff games before the Paris final. They beat England, who were poor that year, in a pool game and in the final, otherwise, they didn’t have to beat a nation that was in the top four going into the tournament.

“Others did that for them.”

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This time around there will be no favours for South Africa with Rich writing that a ‘very real chance’ exists that the defending champions could be dumped out at the quarter-final stage in France.

“This time they are going to have to bump one of the pre-tournament favourites in the quarterfinal round. There is no avoiding it,” he wrote.

“And as games against both New Zealand and France can depend so much just on how the ball bounces on the day and how well you take your chances, there is a very real chance the Boks could be dethroned at the quarterfinal phase.”

If that happened it would be a dose of history repeating for South Africa, who exited the 2011 Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage in their attempt to go back-to-back with defeat to Australia which Rich described as a ‘refereeing freak show’.

The 2007 World Cup champions put together impressive seasons in 2008 and 2009, beating the British & Irish Lions 2-1 while also sweeping the All Blacks 3-0 on the way to a Tri-Nations title.

But their form dropped heading into the showcase event indicating an early exit was on the cards, just saving face in the last round of the 2011 Tri-Nations to narrowly avoid a winless campaign by beating the All Blacks 18-5.

They lost to the Wallabies twice, 39-20 in Sydney and 14-9 in Durban and suffered a 40-7 hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in Wellington, which would also be the site of their third loss of the year to the Aussies in the quarterfinal.

The squad was criticised at the time as being too old and one that failed to rejuvenate following the 2007 World Cup success.

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