No Rugby World Cup semi-final is won in the quarter-final, Bob Skinstad warns Springboks

Jacques Nienaber and the Springboks must fully focus on the game at hand says Bob Skinstad. Photo: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock via BackpagePix

Jacques Nienaber and the Springboks must fully focus on the game at hand says Bob Skinstad. Photo: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock via BackpagePix

Published Oct 18, 2023


There is no way that the Springboks will be thinking about the World Cup final this week already ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against England at the Stade de France (9pm kickoff).

That was the view of former Bok captain Bob Skinstad – who spoke from London yesterday on a media call for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship alongside URC CEO Martin Anayi – who added that he was privileged to attend the SA-France and Ireland-New Zealand quarter-finals at the Stade de France last weekend, and that there was little to separate the four semi-finalists.

In the other playoff on Friday, the All Blacks are favourites to knock over Argentina, also at the same venue in Saint-Denis.

Siya Kolisi’s team will be fancied to easily get past an England side who may be the only unbeaten nation left in the tournament, but have not produced convincing performances in France.

They narrowly escaped going down to Samoa in the pool stages, winning 18-17, and then held off a passionate Fiji 30-24 in last Sunday’s quarter-final in Marseille.

In contrast, the Boks have enjoyed an excellent tournament, despite losing their opener 13-8 against Ireland, and produced a monumental effort to knock out hosts France 29-28 in their quarter-final on Sunday.

But Skinstad doesn’t believe that coach Jacques Nienaber’s outfit will have an easy ride to the final.

“I was incredibly lucky to be at both those quarter-finals. They were probably two of the best rugby games I have ever seen in my entire life, back-to-back,” Skinstad said yesterday.

“I thought Ireland-New Zealand couldn’t be topped, and then South Africa-France almost did just that.

“(But) No semi-final is won in the quarter-final! And I think the Springboks are probably aware of that.

“So, the England side haven’t lost yet. They continue to build momentum, and they get better each time they play.

“South Africa will be incredibly wary of them, and that semi-final in particular will be a really difficult game to call.

“I think South Africa will prepare well, and England will be waiting for them.”

The All Blacks pulled off a bit of an upset by beating then-World No 1 side Ireland 28-24 at the Stade de France last Saturday, and now captain Sam Cane and his team will be expected to dispatch Argentina quite comfortably in Friday’s first semi-final.

But Los Pumas did the unthinkable and recorded their first ever victory over the Kiwis in New Zealand with a 25-18 triumph in Christchurch in August last year, which followed a 25-15 victory in Sydney in November 2020.

Coach Michael Cheika will drill belief into his Argentina side, and Skinstad also feels it’s not a straight-forward outcome.

“Not dissimilar to England, Argentina have been able to get through... more under the radar than other teams. Now they’re in a situation where they are taking on a team that they’ve recently beaten, and started to build belief against – and a team that has allowed them into the recent winner’s circle,” he said.

“So, they would have much more confidence than they would have in the past.

“It really adds to that spectacle of the semi-final, because New Zealand were just absolutely amazing against Ireland.

“They had a 100 percent carrying record, five scrums, nought to Ireland – I haven’t seen those kinds of stats in a match ever, which means they made zero handling errors...

“If New Zealand are in that kind of imperious form, then of course, it will be difficult for Argentina.

“But as we’ve heard from the Argentina coaching staff – and we know that there is a very famous Australian (Cheika) who likes to talk to the media every now and then, but he has just said, ‘We’ll take it game by game, and we love the opportunity to take on one of the best teams in the world’.”