The 10th iteration of the Rugby World Cup will start in France on September 8th, with Les Bleus the favourites to capitalise on home advantage and lift the coveted Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time.
Still, it’s South Africa’s Springboks that remain the world champions for the time being, while the world’s fourth ranked team will look to become just the second side to retain this trophy (after New Zealand in 2015).
This would also see them claim a record fourth World Cup triumph, while the Springboks are priced at a competitive 4.50 to achieve this objective with most sportsbooks.
The side certainly looked imperious during their 43-12 thumping of Australia in the first match of the Rugby Championship in Pretoria at the weekend, while Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus said that his charges could play even better going forward. But can the side really make history in 2023, and what factors will be in their favour in France?
The Playing Squad’s Quality and Depth
The win against the Aussies was SA’s sixth in their last eight outings, and while this sequence also included defeats to World Cup rivals Ireland and France, the team is in good form ahead of the 2023 tournament.
These largely positive results have been achieved with considerable squad depth too. For example, full back-cum-full wing Kurt-Lee Arendse plundered a hattrick against the Wallabies last time out, but he and the impressive Canan Moodie are only considered as back up for Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi on the flanks.
As usual, the Springboks will rely heavily on the strength of their pack forwards this autumn, with the so-called “Bomb Squad” renowned for dominating games from a physical perspective.
Key players here include front-row starters Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane, while Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Franco Mostert can comfortably play at either flank or lock. Lock Marvin Orie, who Rugby365 have reported will join Perpignan next season after the completion of the World Cup, also offers power and experience in equal measure, while he excelled in the win over the Aussies.
The Springboks’ History of Delivering at Major Tournaments
Not only is the South African squad talented, versatile and deep, but the nation also has a habit of reserving its best form for the biggest matches and major tournaments.
Take the RWC in 2019, for example, as while the Springboks lost their Pool B opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama, they improved as the tournament progressed before reaching the final and overpowering England at the very same venue.
Remember, this was also the side’s record equalling third RWC title, while South Africa boasts a 100% win rate in finals. They’ve also won 43% of the games they’ve contested in RWC tournaments, with this 10% higher than the second most successful nation (New Zealand, who have also lifted the title three times).
They’ve also finished third twice, and it’s hard to bet against the South Africans whenever the Rugby World Cup gets underway.
The Bottom Line
What’s more, South Africa also boast a proven leadership mode, with current Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber having remained at the helm since 2018.
This means that the current leadership (including skipper Siya Kolisi) masterminded the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup win, while helping the nation to claim the 2019 Rugby Championship before also winning the 2021 British and Irish Lions test series.
Clearly, these three have immense experience and a broad depth of knowledge, while the leadership structure works incredibly well and arguably affords them an advantage over their closest rivals.
So, although France, Ireland and New Zealand are all widely fancied to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it would be typical of South Africa to gatecrash the party and lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for the fourth time!