VIDEO: Scotland the potential 'banana skin' for Boks at World Cup
Placing too much emphasis on Ireland and ignoring the danger posed by Scotland could have dire consequences for South Africa at the World Cup.
South Africa’s Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus suggested the South African public is making a mistake by looking too far ahead at the Ireland game as the key to the Springboks’ World Cup aspirations.
The Springboks are in the same group as Ireland and Scotland – with other strong contenders such as New Zealand and France in the same half of the draw if South Africa finishes in the top two of their group.
Erasmus said the opening match against Scotland on September 10 was probably more important than the encounter with the top-ranked Ireland team a couple of weeks later.
The Director of Rugby pointed out that in 2019 – when they were in a pool with New Zealand (at the time the world’s top-ranked team), Italy, Namibia and Canada – they lost their opening match before going on to win the tournament.
“Common sense tells you that you must plan well and play well – certainly in our second [against Romania] and last [against Tonga] pool games – because there are players that can play.
“However, we face Scotland in the first match,” he told the media gathering at the Boks’ Plattekloof HQ in Cape Town, adding: “If we beat Scotland, [then] we’ve got a little more breathing space in the rest of the pool matches.”
He said that everybody is talking about the Boks’ game against Ireland on September 23 and putting too much emphasis on that encounter.
“People are underestimating the importance of the Scotland game.
“Scotland will be saying: ‘Why are you guys not talking about us?’
“They have seven or eight South African-born players in their team.
“Scotland and Ireland play each other in the last round of pool matches.
“[The game against] Ireland is important and yes it is going to be a big game.
“However, the Scottish Test, in my opinion, is the biggest Test match.”
(Article continues below the Erasmus interview …)
* Meanwhile Springbok coach Nienaber said the team would travel to France after a longer preparation period than they had before the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“We had limited time when we came in 2018,” said Nienaber.
“We have had a lot more time to focus on systems stuff.
“In terms of the depth of our squad, we are better prepared.”
The Springboks had a preliminary camp in Durban last week with a small squad, which included injury captain Siyamthanda Kolisi in an off-field capacity.
A bigger group will assemble in Durban on Sunday for a three-day camp, which will include players from the Stormers – who play against Munster in the Final of the United Rugby Championship in Cape Town on Saturday.
Nienaber said the Springboks would aim to win the Rugby Championship in which they play Australia and Argentina at home and New Zealand away.
However, having introduced a host of new players since the return from the COVID-enforced break in 2020, there could be rotational changes or giving injured squad members game time when they return from injury.
Erasmus said during the past couple of seasons they made ‘informed’ decisions to see how certain players react under Test-match pressure and intensity.
They introduced players like Retshegofaditswe Nché (who had one previous cap, but didn’t partake in the 2019 World Cup), Joseph Dweba, Salmaan Moerat, Evan Roos, Jasper Wiese, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, Manie Libbok, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse to the Test arena.
“People like to say we are going with the same squad, but I just mentioned guys who are close to making the World Cup squad,” he said of a group[ that featured in the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
“There could be a guy like Herschel [Jantjies], who kicks the door down and says: ‘I want to win a World Cup for you’.
“That’s how it should be in a World Cup year.”
Springbok 2023 fixtures:
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