Boks’ tough draw not altogether bad
Losing to All Blacks in pool play would not dent SA’s hopes of a place in the quarterfinal
The Springboks will face the All Blacks in Rugby World Cup pool play for the first time after the two southern hemisphere giants were drawn together in pool B for the 2019 World Cup.
The draw‚ made in Kyoto on Wednesday‚ also pitted Italy in pool B along with a qualifier from Africa‚ likely to be Namibia‚ and a global qualifier.
At first glance it seems a tough draw for the Boks‚ but in reality losing to the All Blacks in pool play‚ would not dent their quarterfinal hopes.
Beating Italy would almost guarantee a place in the last eight regardless of the result against the reigning world champions and give SA a quarterfinal against either Ireland‚ Scotland or Japan from pool A.
The Boks’ world ranking dropped from third at the beginning of 2016 to seventh this March‚ which meant that they fell into band two for the draw.
Bok coach Allister Coetzee attended the draw at the Kyoto State Guest House along with officials from the other 11 qualified teams and said he was satisfied with the pool allocation.
"As I said before the draw was made – to us it doesn’t matter who we are drawn against‚ because to win the Rugby World Cup‚ you have to beat the best teams out there‚" said Coetzee.
"The pools consist of five teams each and history shows that you need to win at least three of your four pool matches to be sure of a place in the playoffs. We will focus on our journey towards the RWC 2019 and make sure we are ready.
"We’ve been working hard since arriving back from the 2016 outgoing tour to ensure improved results from now on forward‚ with the Rugby World Cup on the distant horizon.
"If ever there was testimony that the gap between the top teams have closed‚ then we saw that over the past few months in the Northern Hemisphere.
"With New Zealand established as the No1 side‚ there is also very little to choose between the top sides in the world‚ while the next batch of teams continue to improve."
New Zealand and SA have met four times at the Rugby World Cup, most famously in the 1995 Ellis Park final, which the Boks won 15-12.
They met again in 1999 in the bronze-medal match with the Boks prevailing 22-18‚ but four years later, the All Blacks eliminated the Boks at the quarterfinal stage, with a 29-9 win. In 2015, the sides battled in an epic semifinal with the All Blacks winning 20-18.
Pool C appears to be the toughest, with England drawn alongside old enemies France and 2015 semifinalists Argentina.