Boks’ biggest World Cup threat?

With just over a year to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the SA Rugby Magazine team debates which team will challenge the Springboks the most as they defend their title in France.

Dylan Jack says: ENGLAND
The Springboks, who are on the same side of the World Cup as Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and hosts France, have a difficult task defending the trophy they won in 2019. Even if the reigning world champions get past the All Blacks, Ireland, or Les Bleus in the play-offs, it’s likely that England will lie in wait for a chance to retaliate cold and hard in the final.

England couldn’t have asked for an easier route through the tournament. They have been placed in Pool D alongside Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile and are likely to face Australia and Wales in the playoffs. England will have a psychological advantage over both having sent a young team to a series win in Australia and to beat Wales in the Six Nations. Eddie Jones might not have picked up too many Silvers lately, but he’s been quietly building this roster to counter any threats the Boks might pose in the Worlds Finals.

Freddie Steward has established himself as a solid presence at full-back, while the combination of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell offers a variety of spontaneous plays and good tactical kicks.

Of course the battle is won up front, but England have sharpened up there too, with Courtney Lawes seamlessly taking over as captain and the likes of Lock Jonny Hill, Loosehead Ellis Genge, Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Strict Kyle Sinckler making a really tough tight five .

While all eyes are understandably on New Zealand and France, the Boks would be rightly wary of the challenge that England will pose. Underestimate the genius of Jones at your peril.

Devin Hermanus says: IRELAND
Former Leinster star Isa Nacewa believes France, the bustling 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam champions, have the “absolute beasts” to trample the springboks.

By tactically overpowering the once-mighty All Blacks in their own backyard, Ireland showed why it takes brains and brawn to trump the best the southern hemisphere has to offer.

Throughout the series in New Zealand, Ireland controlled the action at close quarters. Andy Farrell’s mobile pack, led by workhorse Josh van der Flier, drove the Kiwis several times with a combination of skillful passes and direct carries.

Ireland had no trouble playing at the pace they wanted, were technically superior and responsive, positioning themselves well over the ball to always have a chance of winning a penalty, a steal, or just braking the ball often enough.

Skipper Johnny Sexton showed all his experience and calmness in front of goal, which he has gained from 114 test appearances and along with halfback partner Jamison Gibson-Park, laid the platform for the full-backs to let off steam.

Ireland showed cohesion in attack to lead plans with well-timed running lines and passes, giving players like Bundee Aki and James Lowe as many carries as they could to break through.

Overall, the Irish were better in every aspect of the game, so it’s no surprise that they clinched a historic victory in the third test. They totally deserved the series win, which propelled them to the top of the World Rugby’s Test rankings.

The Boks’ running game isn’t on par with the All Blacks, so Ireland will support their reads and defensive organization to deal with the South Africans’ direct and physical approach.

It was a tremendous achievement for Farrell’s side to become only the third team in history to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in a three-game series and will give them confidence heading into a sell-out clash with the Boks at the Aviva Stage go on 5.11.

Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber need to put their heads together and come up with a plan for the world champions to avoid a bloody nose in Dublin ahead of a KO blow at France 2023.

For this story and more, grab your copy of SA Rugby Magazine!

Leave a Comment