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'BOKS CANNOT BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY'

Pretoria News
FORMER Springboks are not overwhelmingly optimistic about South Africa’s chances of winning the World Cup in Japan in 2019, despite the Boks receiving a relatively good draw in Kyoto, Japan, yesterday.

The Boks have been drawn in Pool B with world trend-setters New Zealand and have avoided the "Pool of Death", which is customary in World Cups, and includes more than two leading nations. In 2019 it is Pool C which includes England, France and Argentina, all capable of being top four finishers in Japan.

Jean de Villiers, the Springbok captain at the 2015 World Cup, says the draw is good for the Boks but only if there is significant change in the form of the Springboks over the next two years.

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Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers

“We have to see our Pool game against New Zealand as a game that simply has to be won,” De Villiers, pictured, said. “And if that is going to happen, a lot has to change in South African rugby over the next two years because current form does not give us much hope of beating the All Blacks any time soon.

“But it can happen,” the former Bok centre said. “A lot can change in two years. We have the players. We just have to get the structures right and build confidence and momentum. I am hopeful the Boks can get it right and it is significant that we have had a good draw and should be able to make the quarter-finals, and then the semi-finals.

"But it is not just going to happen. A lot of role players in SA Rugby have to make sure we are a force in 2019.”

Mark Andrews, a World Cup winner in 1995, said the draw was good for the Boks but added that it counted for little because the Springboks can no longer take anything for granted in world rugby.

“We have to accept that we are now a mid-tier rugby nation (seventh in the world rankings),” Andrews said.

“It is hurtful that we can no longer say that it is a fait accompli that we will beat Italy in our Pool in 2019. I feel that a lot has to change in our rugby if we are to be serious contenders of winning the World Cup. Something has to change. Just look at a country like England that were laughed out of their World Cup in 2015 and then had Eddie Jones come in and next thing England equalled the record for consecutive wins among top tier nations.”

Another former Springbok, John Allan, was caustic in his reaction to the World Cup draw.

“I don’t care which pool the Boks are in and who they are playing,” he said. “I just know that our rugby is in serious trouble and a lot has to change before Japan in 2019. Right now we are nowhere and we need drastic change because right now Springbok rugby cannot be taken seriously in terms of winning the World Cup.”

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