“I think the respect (for the Springboks) is coming back. The challenge now is just to perform consistently,” said Jean de Villiers. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA

CAPE TOWN – While former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers reckons the 2019 Rugby World Cup is going to be a fiercely contested one, he believes Rassie Erasmus’ troops have what it takes to beat any team in Japan.

The Boks won’t have to wait long for their biggest challenge, as they will kick off their hunt for the Webb Ellis Cup against the All Blacks on Saturday, September 21 (11.45am SA time kickoff).

But the defending champions won’t be the only contenders – the northern-hemisphere sides certainly can’t be underestimated.

England look like a serious threat early in the Six Nations competition, while title-holders Ireland have been in superb form for a while.

They might also pack even more punch later this year thanks to the confidence that comes with having two wins over the Kiwis – a historic first one in Chicago back in 2016, and another in Dublin in 2018.

“This year there’ll be a lot more teams competing for the cup than we’ve seen in previous years,” De Villiers said at a function that formed part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour in Stellenbosch on Tuesday night.

“I think we stand a chance. We always have the ability to up our game in a World Cup. There were a lot of positive signs last year, and I’m sure Rassie is preparing well.

“There are your regular contenders – New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, although they had a poor season last year.

“But there’s also England, Ireland and Scotland... they’re also capable of surprising any team on the day. So, there are a lot of contenders, but that should make it a fantastic World Cup.”

De Villiers – who has featured in three World Cups, although his involvement in each was extremely limited due to injury – also feels that the biggest challenge for the Boks will be to perform consistently, while he reckons the World Cup door isn’t closed to players trying to crack a spot in the team.

“The team has good depth, and that win in New Zealand and the game at Loftus showed that we can beat any team,” he said.

“I think the respect (for the Springboks) is coming back. The challenge now is just to perform consistently.

“I think all the Super Rugby players still stand a chance. Rassie of course has a plan, but if a player performs week-in and week-out, a coach will have to come up with a very good reason not to pick him.”

Former captain Jean de Villiers speaks about the Springboks’ chances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and who the other contenders are. Video: Wynona Louw

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