Monday 22 October 2018

Springboks' display underlines size of Ireland task

Ofa Tu’ungafasi with the Freedom Cup after the All Blacks’ victory. Photo: Reuters
Ofa Tu’ungafasi with the Freedom Cup after the All Blacks’ victory. Photo: Reuters
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Just last month Rassie Erasmus suggested that he could be on the verge of getting sacked, and now he believes that his South Africa side are good enough to win the World Cup next year.

Beware the lurking Springboks who are increasingly looking like being able to back up their head coach's ballsy prediction.

Joe Schmidt will have taken great interest in Saturday's enthralling Test in Pretoria where the All Blacks did an All Blacks in snatching a 32-30 victory with the last kick of the game.

Should Ireland top their pool in Japan, they are on course to meet the runners up in New Zealand and South Africa's pool, and judging by the evidence in the Rugby Championship over recent weeks, that is likely to be the Boks.

They will however fancy their chances of causing a major upset by beating the world champions, particularly if they continue to develop as quickly under Erasmus' watch.

It was always going to take time for the former Munster boss to put his stamp on things and after a slow start, the Boks have found their feet.

Having led 23-6 in the second half, South Africa will be gutted to have let such a big lead slip but at the same time, they will be mindful of the bigger picture.

Their half-back partnership of Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard is up there with the best in the world, while Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel are an explosive midfield duo.

Add the class of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit up front, and you can begin to understand why the confidence levels in the country are rapidly growing.

"I really think we have a chance of winning the World Cup. I learnt a lot, not just about the players, but about myself as a coach," Erasmus said.

"I have got to be so careful (about) saying positive things after a loss in South Africa. I don't want to sound positive after a loss. I just really think the rivalry is back.

"I think there (has not been more than) two points (between the teams) in the last three games. We meet once more before we play each other in the World Cup.

"I really think it was one of our best tactical performances in a while."

Ireland will get a crack at New Zealand in Dublin next month but they won't face South Africa until a potential World Cup quarter-final.

Pushing the All Blacks so close yet again merely underlines how tough that task would be for an Ireland side with great expectations.

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