Boks get favourable RWC draw
The Springboks managed to avoid the Pool of Death at the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw on Monday, and would not be too unhappy with their pool opponents in Scotland and Samoa when they get to England.
But the Boks will have a tough quarterfinal draw once they qualify, as they will face one of the two qualifiers from that Pool of Death – either England, Australia or Wales – as the knockout stage of the competition begins.
And while the Boks won’t be thinking that far out, they are likely to face New Zealand in the semifinals if all goes to plan.
While it is a bit strange to do a draw for the World Cup a full 1018 days before the tournament begins, the Boks now at least have certainty as to their path to dethrone New Zealand as World Champions is, and can hardly complain about the cards they have been dealt.
While Australia have a nightmare Pool A and will face the likes of hosts England and Wales in the toughest pool, the Boks once again find themselves crossing swords with Samoa while the Scots will provide a good challenge in the pool rounds.
Also in their group will be the top qualifier from Asia, in all probability Japan while the second best qualifier from the Americas, perhaps the USA or Canada will round out the pool.
Either way, the Boks will have more than enough game-time to keep them busy in the first month of the tournament, and will expect another bruising encounter when they face Samoa in the main match of the tournament.
New Zealand, who dominated the IRB Awards, which were handed over in a watered-down ceremony at the end of the draw, were also treated well by lady luck, and have Argentina and Tonga in their group, as well as qualifiers from Europe and the Americas.
Coach Heyneke Meyer was happy with the draw, but reiterated that the Bok aim was to be the best team at the tournament, and not to just get an easy path.
“Our aim was to be in the first band of teams and we achieved that, moving from fourth at the start of the year to second in the IRB world rankings,” said Meyer in an SA Rugby statement.
“As I said before the draw was made – to us it doesn't matter who we are drawn against, because to win the World Cup, you have to beat the best teams out there.
“If ever there was testimony that the gap between the top teams have closed, we saw that over the past month in the Northern Hemisphere. There really is very little to choose between the top sides in the world, while the next batch of teams has also improved a lot recently.”
Given England’s shock win over New Zealand, there is much renewed hope in the northern hemisphere, and with the weather playing a crucial part in teams’ progress in the tournament, it will help level the playing fields a bit.
Still, while the Boks have a decent pool draw, there is little to suggest the All Blacks don’t have an easy run into the semis, as they are likely to face either Ireland or Italy in the quarters.
France should find easy passage through Pool D, and are also a dark horse, especially with the tournament being played across the pond from their home.
SOME INTERESTING STATS FROM THE DRAW:
* New Zealand have always finished top of their pool in Rugby World Cup history.
* Eight other nations have topped a RWC pool – France (five times), South Africa and Australia (four times), England (three times), Wales (twice), Argentina, Ireland and Scotland (once).
* The last two Rugby World Cup Finals have been between teams drawn in the same pool – England and South Africa in 2007 and New Zealand and France in 2011.
* Australia have never met New Zealand, France or Scotland in the pool stages in Rugby World Cup history.
* England will face Wales for the first time in a Pool stage of a World Cup
* Samoa and South Africa have been drawn in the same pool at the last three Rugby World Cups and this draw makes it four in a row.
* France have never been drawn in the same pool as Australia, England, South Africa, Samoa or Wales. By contrast they have faced Scotland three times in the pool stages – in 1987, 1995 and 2003.
* The hosts and defending champions have been drawn in the same pool on two occasions – England and New Zealand in 1991 and South Africa and Australia in 1995.
* Ireland have been in the same pool as Australia on three occasions (1999, 2003 and 2011). They have also met the Wallabies twice in the knockout stages.
* Italy and New Zealand are no strangers to each other in RWC pool stages, having faced each other in five of the seven tournaments to date, the exceptions being 1995 and 2011.
* The defending champions have never met Australia, Samoa, Scotland or South Africa in the pool stages, but have faced three of the quartet in the knockout stages.
* South Africa have never faced Argentina, France, Ireland, Italy or New Zealand in a RWC pool match.
* Tonga have found New Zealand awaiting them in the pool stages on three occasions (1999, 2003 and 2011) and this draw makes it four in a row.
* Wales and Samoa have been drawn in the same pool on three occasions with the Welsh finally discovering that winning formula in 2011 after losses in 1991 and 1999.
* Argentina and South Africa have never met in the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup.
* Scotland have been drawn in the same pool as Romania at the last two Rugby World Cups, but have never met Australia, Samoa or USA at this stage of the tournament. This will be their first time facing Samoa in RWC Pool stages.
ALL THE POOLS FOR RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015:
Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Oceania 1, Playoff winners
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1, Americas 2
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1, Africa 1
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Americas 1, Europe 2