South Africa emerge as Rugby World Cup contendersPublished on: August 12, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
A decade is a long time in any sport, but the wait for a Rugby Championship title is over for South Africa.
The Springboks came through a truncated version of the tournament unbeaten with two wins and a draw that saw them crowned Southern Hemisphere champions for the first time since 2009.
It’s also their maiden success since Argentina joined the Rugby Championship and turned it into a quartet with Australia and New Zealand.
On recent evidence, the rainbow nation are best below the equator but only ranked fourth in the world.
South African resurgence is timely, because Rassie Erasmus now takes them on to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Their Pool B campaign gets underway on 21 September against the once mighty All Blacks, but New Zealand hold no fears for them.
Why? The Springboks’ Kiwi counterparts only retain their status as the top rugby nation on sufferance.
Wales would’ve overhauled the All Blacks atop the rankings if they had beaten England as the warm-ups for the Rugby World Cup began in earnest.
New Zealand, seemingly unbeatable and infallible four years ago, have only beaten South Africa once in their last three encounters.
The four most recent battles between the All Blacks and Springboks have been very close run things indeed.
Two points or fewer separated these rugby heavyweights in all of those. Calling the winner of their group stage meeting in Yokohama, and by extension Pool B itself, is tough.
It’s one early Rugby World Cup match you don’t want to miss. New Zealand can’t change the fact they’ll head to Japan having failed to win three of their last four competitive internationals.
Market support for South Africa at Rugby World Cup
Buoyed by Rugby Championship success, South Africa are one side bookmakers have transformed from dark horses into World Cup contenders.
This emerging force, like a rainbow after a downpour, has the ability to dazzle and inspire wonder. They’re now chasing the proverbial pot of gold in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The real recent find in Springboks ranks is scrum half Herschel Jantjies. No relation to fellow half back Elton, the 23-year-old’s double against Australia saw him named man of the match on his international debut.
A late try over New Zealand gave South Africa the chance to pinch a draw off them in Wellington.
Handre Pollard, meanwhile, proved the difference between the Springboks and Argentina, scoring 31 of their 46 points as they secured the Southern Hemisphere title.
The pair have the makings of particularly potent partnership is Erasmus does start them together.
Faf de Klerk got the number nine jersey in the South African XV against New Zealand and Argentina, but Jantjies’ contribution to the Rugby Championship is right up there.
No player scored more tries than in the tournament this year. A combination of youth and experience is sure to comprise the Springboks squad selected by Erasmus for the Rugby World Cup.
If there’s one area where the latter is lacking, it’s on the wing. Cheslin Kolbe has more to offer here.
The forward pack, meanwhile, contains familiar faces like The Beast at prop, Eben Etzebeth at lock and the versatile Pieter-Steph du Toit.
World Cup veterans Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Francois Steyn all have roles to play alongside hooker Schalk Brits.
There’s a lot to like about South Africa, then, as they bid for a second Rugby World Cup success 24 years on from Francois Pienaar and all that on home soil.