Pool B: Rassie Erasmus’s Springboks can turn over the All Blacks

World Champions and South Africa look sure to qualify from uncompetitive group

Rassie Erasmus has sparked an impressive renaissance from the Springboks. Photograph: Ross Setford/Reuters

Rassie Erasmus has sparked an impressive renaissance from the Springboks. Photograph: Ross Setford/Reuters

 

Pool B

New Zealand - 1st (11-10)
South Africa - 5th (8-1)
Italy - 14th (500-1)
Namibia - 23rd (5000-1)
Canada - 21st (2500-1)

The Contenders

Steve Hansen’s All Blacks are justified favourites to retain their title and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third tournament in a row. Four years after their win over Australia at Twickenham New Zealand remain rugby’s dominant force, with frightening talent and strength-in-depth across the pitch. However, there are chinks in the world champions’ armour - a 36-34 defeat at home to the Springboks in last year’s Rugby Championship, as well as the 16-9 reversal against Ireland in Dublin, prove they are beatable. And it will be South Africa looking to knock them off their perch in Pool B, with the two-time winners looking like a team reborn under former Munster coach Rassie Erasmus.

Conor O’Shea’s Italy will have their work cut out in Japan. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty
Conor O’Shea’s Italy will have their work cut out in Japan. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty

The two great rivals and powerhouses will slug it out in their opening fixture with the winners virtually guaranteed to top the pool. Italy are a Tier One nation in name but have yet to consistently perform like one under Conor O’Shea, and the Azzurri stand little chance of causing an upset against the two southern hemisphere giants. Despite being the lowest ranked side in the competition Namibia are competing in their sixth-consecutive tournament, which is an achievement in itself, while Canada qualified through the backdoor after seeing off Germany, Hong Kong and Kenya in a repechage play-off.

The crunch fixture

Saturday, September 21st, International Stadium Yokohama, the All Blacks versus the Springboks - nothing else needs to be said.

New Zealand’s Ben Smith in action against Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Photograph: Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty
New Zealand’s Ben Smith in action against Argentina in the Rugby Championship. Photograph: Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty

The dark horses

This is perhaps the least competitive pool of all, with Italy looking unlikely to challenge either New Zealand or South Africa. Meanwhile, both Namibia and Canada look someway short of causing an upset against the Azzurri. However, don’t put it past the Springboks to turn over the All Blacks in the first round and top the pool.

The X-Factor

Herschel Jantjies’ sensational South Africa debut, in the 35-17 Rugby Championship win over Australia at Ellis Park, was perfectly timed. The 23-year-old scored two tries against the Wallabies and followed it up with a try in the last play of the game to earn a 16-16 draws with the All Blacks at the end of July. Jantjies is a sure to make an impact in Japan, where his scintillating pace and excellent support running will make him a serious weapon in the Boks’ armour.

Herschel Jantjies scored twice against the Wallabies on his South Africa debut. Photograph: Christiaan Kotze/Getty/AFP
Herschel Jantjies scored twice against the Wallabies on his South Africa debut. Photograph: Christiaan Kotze/Getty/AFP

The verdict

The Springboks renaissance under Erasmus is such that they will fancy their chances of turning over the All Blacks in what promises to be an absorbing and hugely physical encounter. Italy should pick up regulation victories over Canada and Namibia, with the African side looking for a first-ever World Cup win.

1 South Africa
2 New Zealand
3 Italy
4 Canada
5 Namibia

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.