The defense of the title is on. South Africa travels to France for this year’s World Cup as the reigning champions and the team to beat.
Defending a world title is a tough ask of any team in any sport, but this year’s Springbok squad has all the tools it needs at its disposal to book a place in the final and get their hands back on the cup. How will it play out? We have some ideas.
Biggest Fish In The Pool
South Africa was drawn into Pool B for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and at first glance, many people could be forgiven for thinking that this was the ‘group of death’ for the tournament. As well as the reigning world champions, this pool also includes Ireland and Scotland – two highly capable teams, as well as Tonga and Romania. Tonga can play and could be the underdog who decides who progresses and who goes home early.
The Springboks look to have an advantage in this pool, with a squad that has a mix of seasoned and experienced international players and some young, hungry, and dynamic Springboks making their way to their first full World Cup. South Africa versus Ireland on the 23rd of September will be one of the most important rugby fixtures to look out for in this tournament. A lot could be decided by that game.
The Springbok Squad
Head coach Jacques Nienaber’s squad selection has raised a few eyebrows across South African sports but also looks promising. Experienced stalwarts Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, and Lock Lood de Jager are all out of the squad due to injury or illness, and this has created an opportunity for Nienaber to add some utility and versatility to the team. There are many players that can play at the highest level in multiple positions in the squad, and that should keep opposing teams and Springbok fans on their toes; guessing the starting line-ups will be a fun game to play in the warmup to a fixture.
Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse have been included in the squad as number tens but can fill in at other positions if necessary, and the squad also includes four versatile scrum-halves in Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, and Cobus Reinach. Deon Fourie and Franco Mostert add more options too.
The Road To The Stade De France
The final takes place on the 28th of October in the glorious Stade de France in Saint-Denis, and the Springboks have everything they need to book a slot there but the road will not be an easy one to travel. The pool games against Ireland and Scotland will be big tests, and if South Africa passes them with flying colours it will be hard to see anyone else standing in their way.
The usual suspects will have to be beaten at some point, depending on how their pools pan out. New Zealand, Italy, and France are all in the same pool and that plays into South Africa’s hands. Only two of them can emerge past the pool stages and into the knockout rounds. Pool A is the real ‘group of death’.
This year’s Rugby World Cup looks like one to remember, and if the Springboks make it all the way to the final and successfully defend their title, they will write their way into South Africa’s sporting history books. Tune in to watch in September, you won’t be disappointed.