A word of caution for all those Springbok fans jumping for joy at avoiding a ‘worst-case scenario’ pool draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Sure, it might have been worse.
The Springboks could’ve faced a ‘group of death’ pool battle with France and Argentina for the two playoff spots.
Instead, the Springboks drew Ireland and Scotland – and two other yet-to-be-determined opponents.
South Africa will play Ireland for the first time ever in a World Cup pool and will play Scotland for the third time having previously clashed at the 1999 tournament (won 46-29 at Murrayfield) and again in 2015 (won 34-16 in Newcastle).
FRANCE OR NEW ZEALAND LIE IN WAIT
Assuming Jacques Nienaber’s men (assuming Jacques Nienaber is still the Springbok coach in 2023) progress to the quarter-finals, that’s were things start to get get tricky.
Hosts France or New Zealand will in all likelihood lie in wait.
Those two sides were drawn in Pool A and while it pits two heavyweight title contenders against one another, in reality (with respect to Italy) both those nations will progress to the playoffs no matter whether they win, lose or draw their pool clash.
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The other half of the draw has a far easier look to it.
Pool C will see Wales, Australia and Fiji battle it out for the two playoff spots.
On current form, the Wallabies would be favourites to top the pool, with Fiji in with a real shout of upsetting their most-illustrious Welsh foes.
Despite Japan’s heroics at previous World Cups, Pool D is likely to see England finish top with Argentina in second.
NOT THE EASIEST OF SEMI-FINALS
That would leave Australia to play Argentina and England to meet Wales (or Fiji) in the quarter-finals.
The way the World Cup draw works, that would mean – assuming the Springboks top their group – the winner of whoever they face in the quarter-finals (France or New Zealand) would then play the winner of Australia and Argentina in the semi-finals.
Again, not the easiest of semi-finals.
In the other semi-final, the winner of the match between Ireland (likely Pool B runners-up) and winner of the France and New Zealand pool would play the winner of the England v Wales/Fiji clash.
To then predict who the finalists will be with a little under three years to go would really take a magical crystal ball!
Rugby World Cup 2023 pools:
Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1, Africa 1
Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia / Pacific 1, Europe 2
Pool C: Wales, Australia, Fiji, Europe 1, Final Qualifier Winner
Pool D: England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1, Americas 2