State of the Bok nation: Hundred days to go!
Today, Wednesday, May 31, is 100 days to go to the World Cup – when hosts France tackle three-time champions New Zealand at Stade de France, in the Paris of Saint-Denis, on September 8.
Two days later the defending champions, South Africa, tackle Scotland at Stade de Marseille in their tournament opener.
The Webb Ellis Cup arrived in Paris on Tuesday and will pass from world champions South Africa to hosts France, a symbol that the countdown is truly underway.
Here South Africa’s Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber unpack the ‘state of the Springbok nation’ ahead of #RWC23.
Both felt the Boks were in a good space, as they look to become only the second team to successfully defend their World Cup crown.
Erasmus spoke of the six internationals ahead of the World Cup in September – three Rugby Championship Tests and three more warm-up matches.
“Our first goal is to win the Rugby Championship,” the Director of Rugby told a media briefing.
Given the quality of the opposition in their World Cup pool – world No.1 Ireland and No.5 Scotland – they are looking to take ‘momentum’ into the World Cup warm-up matches in August and the tournament itself.
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“We feel, the way we have planned and how we finished last year, we are on a good trajectory,” he said of wins over England (27-13) and Italy (63-21), after narrow losses to France (26-30) and Ireland (16-19) on the year-end tour.
Erasmus admitted a lot has changed – in terms of the way the game is being played, law interpretations and how players have adjusted to those changes.
“We have kept up to speed by following all the competitions [around the world],” he said, adding: “We are nervous about the World Cup year, but also really well prepared at this stage.”
Nienaber said that in 2018, when they had a very limited build-up as a new coaching collective ahead of the 2019 World Cup, their focus was on getting defence and kicking ‘systems’ in place.
“We had a little bit more time to work on our attack,” he said, looking ahead to France 2023.
Nienaber added that they are in a “better position” in terms of depth in the squad, compared to 2019.
Springbok fixtures for 2023 follow below …
Saturday, 8 July – v Australia (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, 15 July – v New Zealand (Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland)
Saturday, 29 July – v Argentina (Ellis Park, Johannesburg)
World Cup warm-up fixture
Saturday, 5 August – v Argentina (Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires)
Saturday, 19 August – v Wales (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff)
Friday, 25 August – v New Zealand (Twickenham, London)
World Cup pool fixtures
Sunday, 10 September – v Scotland (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
Sunday, 17 September – v Romania (Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux)
Saturday, 23 September – v Ireland (Stade de France, Paris)
Sunday, 1 October – v Tonga (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
Weekend of 14/15 October – quarterfinals
Weekend of 21/22 October – semifinals
Saturday, 28 October – Final