South Africa: Defending Their Title as World Cup Champions - Strategies and Challenges - Ruck

South Africa: Defending Their Title as World Cup Champions – Strategies and Challenges

With the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) well underway, many are watching South Africa to see how the team fares after taking the underdog win in 2019. Those that like to take chances on betting odds are even more eager. 

A Little History

The inaugural Rugby World Cup competition was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 1987. However, due to the apartheid regime’s isolation from the rest of the world in terms of sports, South Africa was unable to compete until the 1995 World Cup. 

The Springboks (South Africa) wasted no time making up for the lost international sporting years and won the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil that year. In the history of the World Cup, South Africa and New Zealand each have three trophies, Australia has two, and England has one. 

Aside from those teams, France has made the finals three times but never won. With South Africa being the previous winners of the 2019 World Cup, they are the defending champions and the team everyone wants to beat this year. 

In addition, South Africa is the only rugby side to have triumphed in each World Cup final it has participated in. 

RWC 2023

Before the tournament started, the Springbok captain, Siya Kholisi, said that experience will be the team’s key factor this year as the squad has many players with previous World Cup experience. 

Of the 33-player SA squad, nine players have already participated in two Rugby World Cups, and a further 12 players participated in the 2019 tournament. That leaves only a third of the squad as first-timers. 

Kolisi added that in 2019, the team was the underdogs. This year, the team has a lot more experience as a group, and even the younger players could learn from and lean on the more experienced players for support. 

One of the challenges that coach Jacques Nienaber mentioned early on was the expectations from his home country. However, he also said that expectations aren’t a burden to the team, but rather a privilege. 

The 5,000+ fans that showed up to see the Springboks off at OR Tambo airport are a testament to that privilege and support. As far as strategies go at this stage, Nienaber said that he would be focusing on fewer changes and more combinations.

Can South Africa Win the 2023 RWC?

SA can succeed this year for a number of reasons. There are still several important support and coaching staff from South Africa’s victory in 2019. For new ideas, they have also added fresh talent in the likes of Deon Davids. 

The SA squad has a wealth of talented players at many positions, allowing them to create potent combinations with anybody they choose. It’s also helpful that many players can switch between positions. 

However, there are a few things the Springboks must keep in mind. Players from South Africa need to have enough rest in between games because they are older than most players in other teams. 

They are also in a difficult pool. Therefore, they ought to change the team when they play lower-ranked opposition. The group must also maintain its composure while playing and adapt to the way referees interpret the rules. 

South Africa stands a high probability of winning if these factors are taken into consideration.

What Critics Say

Some of the best sports critics are those who work with betting odds. As far as the ones we spoke to are concerned, in terms of international rugby, the Springboks have one of the finest records. 

Along with Ireland, Scotland, Tonga, and Romania, South Africa was placed in Group B. It shouldn’t be too tough for the Irish and Springboks to win this group and progress to the qualifiers. 

The challenge gets tougher as they face off against the top squads from Group A. It’s likely that France and New Zealand will be those teams. 

SA vs Scotland 

In the initial Pool B encounter between the two sides in Marseille, South Africa defeated Scotland 18-3 to begin defending their Rugby World Cup championship. Before this win, SA hadn’t won an opening game at a World Cup since they defeated Wales in 2011.

The victory also made it eight games in a row that the Springboks had defeated the Scots, maintaining their unbeaten streak against them outside of Scotland. After the match against Scotland, Nienaber made 14 changes to the lineup. They were as follows:

Damian Willemse to play fly-half rather than full-back. Makazole Mapimpi on the wing. Vincent Koch was supposed to make his first start since the RWC 2019 match against Canada. Willemse and Cobus Reinach to make their debut as a pair of half-backs. 

The outside centre is to be played by Canan Moodie. Moodie and his midfield teammate Andre Esterhuizen to play in their first Rugby World Cup game. Eben Etzebeth’s absence will be covered by Marvin Orie and Jean Kleyn. 

Dean Fourie and Jaden Hendrikse to cover for Bongi Mbonambi in the hooker position. A last-minute change saw Trevor Nyakane replace Vincent Koch just before the Romania game due to an injury during warmup.

SA vs Romania

The SA team then went on to beat Romania 76-0 in their next RWC game and bagged the record for scoring four tries within 12 minutes. This is the quickest that any team has scored four tries in RWC history.

Following this match, Nienaber made 13 adjustments for the next game against Ireland. Four players will leave the bench and join the starting XV, and nine players who missed the game against Romania will start again.

Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse are the only players who will continue to play from the kick-off. From the bench of substitutes, Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff, Jesse Kriel, and Jasper Wiese enter.

With the exception of the hooker, the squad starts with the same lineup that triumphed against Scotland. Malcolm Marx will be replaced by Mbonambi due to injuries. As a result, Kolisi, du Toit, and Wiese will be the loose trio and Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert will be the locking pair. 

Kriel and de Allende will join up with Faf de Klerk and Manie Libbok in the backline, while Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse will be on the wings.

The Winners Recipe

It’s far too early in the tournament to comment on if SA will win, but we can say without doubt that the team has what it takes. The success of RWC rugby teams is influenced by a variety of factors, but five particular qualities stand out as essential. 

These include being physically prepared, using player management and recuperation procedures that are effective, having ‘X-factor’ players who can make opportunities appear out of thin air, playing as a cohesive team, and excellent coaching strategies and tactics. 

South Africa has the ‘X-factor’ players, so winning will boil down to the other four elements and a bit of luck.