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Boks post Jacques Nienaber and other 2024 predictions

OPINION: A new year means a fresh start and 12 unblemished months ahead of us.

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Many have set new goals and just two weeks into the new year, some might have already revived them or even abandoned them completely.

But while the 2024 year is still in its ‘infancy’, it’s the perfect time to bring out our crystal ball and see what’s in store for the year.

Compared to 2023 – when there was the World Cup in France – 2024’s list of events will not surpass the pure excitement.

However, there are still tournaments, athletes and teams that will deliver an entertaining year.

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Here are my predictions on what to expect in 2024!

1. Duane Vermeulen to be announced as Springboks’ defence coach.

Following the World Cup, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber joined Leinster, while assistant coach Felix Jones has taken up the role of the defence of England.

The duo’s exit means the Springboks’ coaching will undergo a minor revamp ahead of the 2024 Test season.

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It has been reported that Rassie Erasmus will cover the role of Director of Rugby and head coach and Duane Vermeulen is set to take up the position as defence coach.

Having the legendary No.8 as the Springbok’s defence coach seems like the logical step, especially after being spotted in the Boks’ coaching box on a few occasions in the last couple of seasons – on the occasions that he was not selected to play.

Late in November, a reliable source told rugby365com, they can neither confirm nor deny the speculation.

Either way, the widely reported ‘secret’ has been accepted with open arms by Bok fans.

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2. Boks to win series against Ireland

The Springboks head into the 2024 season as the most successful World Cup side, after securing their fourth title in France in October.

Undefeated in the four Finals they have featured in, the Boks are worthy World Cup champs.

South Africa became just the second team in history after New Zealand (2011 and 2015) to have secured back-to-back World Cup titles.

Following their 2023 World Cup triumph the Springboks return to the Test arena with a two-match Series against Ireland – in Pretoria (July 6) and Durban (July 13).

The two-match series will see the team ranked No.2 make their first visit to South Africa in eight years.

The Springboks won that 2016 series, 2-1, but since then Ireland has won all three meetings with the Boks – and five of the last seven.

Ireland is also the only team to have beaten the Springboks at #France23 – in a titanic Pool B clash at Stade de France in Paris.

The Irish will head to South Africa very well prepared and already far into their Test season – in the wake of their Six Nations campaign.

They will be a tough nut to crack for the Springboks, who will re-emerge from intonational hibernation after 252 days.

However, that won’t halt Rassie Erasmus and Co from securing a series win over Ireland.

Erasmus already lives rent-free in the heads of Irish fans.

 

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3. Boks to win the Rugby Championship

I know it’s a very bold prediction.

When it comes to World Cups, the Boks are experts.

However, with the Rugby Championship, it gets a little tricky.

They last hoisted the trophy in 2019, but this year the stars might just align.

The Springboks kick off their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back fixtures against the old foes, the All Blacks – at Ellis Park (August 31) and Cape Town Stadium (September 7).

For South Africa at the back of a challenging Series against Ireland, the Rugby Championship opening rounds represent an extremely strenuous period.

But it is also a golden opportunity to get the better of Scott Robertson, who will still be finding his rhythm as All Blacks coach.

The Boks then conclude their home fixtures against Argentina, who will also have a new, unproven international coach in Felipe Contepomi after Michael Cheika’s exit.

Meanwhile, Australia have their own set of problems, as they are rebuilding after the controversial and polemical Eddie Jones tenure.

4. All Blacks to upset Boks in Cape Town

There is little doubt the Boks will manage to record a third successive victory over the All Blacks when the teams meet at Ellis Park in August.

However, the Cape Town showdown on September 7 is up for grabs and All Blacks will take it.

Still hurting from the 11-12 World Cup defeat, New Zealand, along with the thousands of Cape Town supporters, will regard this match as an opportunity for revenge – after having lost in Johannesburg.

The All Blacks will play at the Cape Town Stadium for the first time.

The teams’ last meeting in the Mother City was a 24-25 loss for the Boks at Newlands in 2017.

5. SA teams to book Euro semis

There is a feeling that the Bulls or Stormers have a decent shot at Champions Cup glory.

Playing in their second season of the Champions Cup, the two teams have shown they are capable of handling the high demands of the competition with some impressive results.

The Bulls picked up a losing bonus point against Lyon in France, while they demolished Premiership giants Saracens at Loftus Versfeld.

Stormers have made a strong statement, beating back-to-back champs La Rochelle in an epic battle in the Pool of Death.

The Challenge Cup could be taken by the Lions or Cheetahs.

Both teams have been looking strong, the Cheetahs topping Pool One and the Lions sitting pretty in second place in Pool Two.

It will certainly be a momentous moment, to see the Lions or Cheetahs’ name engraved on the Challenge Cup.

We can also count on Sharks – second place behind the Cheetahs in Pool One – to also deliver some big upsets, despite their poor URC form.

6 Ireland claims back-to-back Grand Slams

The Six Nations could well be decided in the opening round, when Ireland travels to Marseille to take on France on February 2.

Both are still hurting from their disappointing World Cup campaigns, but the two teams will be eager to kick off the Six Nations in fine fashion.

Home ground advantage will be of utmost importance given how tight the margins are between the teams.

However, the Les Blues are without Antoine Dupont, who will miss the tournament for the Olympics with the SVNS team.

That means they may well lack the tenacity and flair that they are so well known for.

Therefore, should Andy Farrell manage to get his first-ever win in France, it will certainly be difficult to see how Ireland would fail to secure another Grand Slam.

The Irish will be favourites to beat Italy and Wales at home, while a trip to England and a Test against Scotland in Dublin in the last rounds are the only matches that stand in the way of the Grand Slam.

The last team to clinch back-to-back Grand Slams were France in 1997 and 1998 in the penultimate edition of the Five Nations.

7. Someone other than the Crusaders will win Super Rugby

Another bold statement, given the fact that Crusaders is a Super Rugby dynasty.

They claimed a seventh straight Super Rugby title with a 25-20 win over the Chiefs last year and have ruled the Southern Hemisphere competition with an iron fist.

However, the side has undergone some major changes and has some big holes to fill.

Starting with the loss of their seven-time champion coach Scott Robertson – now the All Black coach.

Razor has been etched in the Crusaders’ psyche for the last seven years – winning seven consecutive Super Rugby trophies from 2017 to 2023. His absence will be deeply felt, and one simply can’t see them adjusting in time to lift another title this year.

On top of that, the team’s playmaker Richie Mo’unga has signed a three-year contract with the Brave Lupus in Japan.

New coach Rob Penney will certainly not want to reinvent the wheel, but he will step into loads of pressure.

While history is on the Crusaders’ side, the more settled Chiefs look like title contenders this year.

8. BlitzBoks’ woes to contineus

The South African Sevens opened their 2024 World Series with a bang, winning the Dubai leg.

However, just a week later in Cape Town, the side crashed back to earth when they were humiliated 28-0 by Australia in the quarterfinals.

They eventually ended the tournament in fifth place after a 7-31 loss to New Zealand.

While they can recover in the six remaining legs before June, the team faces a gigantic task in qualifying for the Olympics.

The BlitzBoks’  last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games comes at a tournament in Monaco from June 21 to 23.

The Olympic Games take place in Paris a month later, with 22 of the 24 teams confirmed.

The BlitzBoks will face amongst others regular HSBC SVNS teams Canada, Great Britain and Spain, with Brazil, Chile, China, Hong Kong China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Uganda the other contestants.

While I remain hopeful that the BlitzBoks can earn a spot at the Olympics, the reality is there are some big concerns for the team who secured bronze in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Not qualifying will sum up the disastrous period under coach Sandile Ngcobo.

Meanwhile, the BlitzBoks Women’s squad already booked their place among the world’s elite and will contest their very first Olympic Games.

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Some other stuff on the list:

  • More players to join the Japan League One
  • France to win gold at the Olympics with Atonoine Dupont.
  • All Blacks to ditch their overseas eligibility policy after Rugby Champs disaster
  • Michael Hooper to be reinstated as Wallabies captain

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