The South African squad arrived in France in top form, bristling with world-class players.
The four years between Rugby World Cups have been anything but normal for everyone. For the world champion Springboks they couldn’t have been harder, yet somehow they’ve arrived in France in fine fettle.
The burning question is whether the Boks are good enough to win Rugby World Cup 2023. The simple answer is yes. But they could lose in a tough quarterfinal on a marginal call. That’s how fine the margins are between the world’s top four teams.
Any one of France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa could win this tournament, and two of them won’t make it past the quarterfinals thanks to the dreadful decision to do the pool stage draw three years ago.
The rugby landscape was a vastly different place in the midst of Covid. The Boks were still ranked No 1 when the draw was done in late 2020, even though they didn’t play a Test in the entire year thanks to the pandemic.
What happened with the draw?
That decision was made as part of a quid pro quo in which France guaranteed more income for World Rugby in return for an earlier competition draw.
The theory was that it would give fans more…