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Boks plan #RWC 'miracle'

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Springbok lock Eben Etzbeth, South Africa’s best player, underpinned the unpredictable nature of the 2023 World Cup.

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South Africa heads into the global showpiece, hosted by France in September, with one goal in mind and a big target on their collective backs.

They hope to achieve the rare feat of being crowned back-to-back World Cup Champions – the sporting equivalent of a miracle.

New Zealand is the only team that has managed to achieve this, winning the title in 2011 and 2015.

Speaking to reporters at the South African Rugby Union headquarters in Cape Town, Etzebeth said his desire is to win the World Cup again.

However, he admitted that this year’s edition would be very challenging, given that eight teams are real contenders for the title.

“It is a big year for the Springboks players and coaches,” Etzebeth said.

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“It is the first time for many of us going into a World Cup as defending champions, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us, and we are all excited.

“There are eight teams that I feel have a realistic chance to win the World Cup.

“So, in September when the World Cup starts, you have to perform week in and week out for seven weeks to win the trophy.”

Boks plan #RWC 'miracle'

‘A very tough group’

The Boks have been grouped with Scotland, the No.1 ranked side Ireland, Tonga and Romania in Pool B.

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The Springboks open their 2023 World Cup campaign against Scotland at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, on September 10.

“We are in a very tough group. Scotland and Ireland are both quality opposition.” the 2022 SA Player of the year noted.

“You have to win three of your four Pool games and the last three are play-offs which are must-wins, thus you have to be on top of your game.”

He added: “As a team, we know we have to be good contenders and we are the reigning champions.

“I think we know where we stand and we know if we bring our ‘A-game’ we will have a shot at it.”

The last time the Springboks visited Marseille, they suffered a 26-30 loss to France.

It was one of two defeats the Springboks suffered in their end-of-year tour in November 2022.

Despite the narrow defeats, Etzebeth said the Test match against Les Bleus has given the Boks a glimpse of what to expect at this year’s World Cup.

“We can’t sit here and say we are happy about those two defeats [to Ireland and France].

“Maybe if one or two things went our way it would have been different,” he added.

“But at the end of the day, it goes down in the history books.

“We got a nice experience when we played in Marseille, about how loud it could be. The guys could barely hear each other in the warm-up.

“For France, it will obviously be home ground advantage and they will feel the crowd’s atmosphere.”

The Springboks are back in action in July when they will contest the Rugby Championship against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.

They will have three World Cup Warm-up matches against Argentina, Wales and New Zealand in August.

@leezil07
@rugby365com

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