Cardiff - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee agrees that the slip up against Italy at the weekend has upped the ante for his team as they face Wales in the final match of a troublesome 2016 for South African rugby.
The 20-18 defeat to Italy in Florence at the weekend has seen the Boks drop out of the top four in the World Rugby rankings, and that rightfully has serious implications for the Bok challenge in the next World Cup to be played in Japan three years from now. That is because the top four sides get a favourable seeding at the global event, while those who don’t are at the mercy of fate, as England were when they hosted the World Cup in 2015.
As their world ranking wasn’t good, England found themselves entering the tournament draw as a low seeding even though they were hosting the event. They found themselves in the so-called pool of death, together with Australia and Wales, and ended up failing to make the play-offs after losing to both those teams in the initial phase of the competition.
There is not too much danger of England missing out on a good seeding this time. They have been the big climbers in the world rankings this year, with new coach Eddie Jones taking them to a comfortable second in the world behind New Zealand. Last year’s beaten World Cup finalists, Australia, are currently third, while the Boks started November ensconced in fourth place.
However, while Ireland dropped 0.21 points when they lost to New Zealand in Dublin this past weekend, their win over the World Cup champions a fortnight before that did wonders for their ranking and their chances of a first ever feature as a top four side in the World Cup draw. They have now displaced the Boks and could pass Australia if they beat the Wallabies in Dublin on Saturday.
And Wales, who set a rise to the top four as their goal for the autumn international part of their season, could pass the Boks too if they win against the South Africans at the Millennium Stadium and then go on to enjoy a fairly successful Six Nations campaign at the start of next year. The World Cup draw is to be made in May 2017, meaning before the southern hemisphere teams playing again and after the Six Nations.
The Boks dropped a whopping 1.97 ranking points through the Italian defeat which is why suddenly there is a sense of urgency about the World Cup seeding that wasn’t there before.
“Every game is viewed as important, and that has been the case from the beginning of the year, but getting back into the top four has become a very important mission for us,” admitted Coetzee on Monday.
“The World Cup is still a few years away, but what happens now will have a big impact on the draw. One of the obvious drawbacks of not being in the top four is that you lose the favourable World Cup seeding. We all saw what happened to England last time. They weren’t in the top four so they ended up in the same pool at the World Cup as some of the other top teams and ended up not making the play-offs.
“We were really poor against Italy. Desperately poor. I wouldn’t say I saw it coming because after every training session I felt confident. We trained well. It is important to get it right on Saturday because we need to avoid having a bad draw for the World Cup. We’ve just got to come up with a much better performance against Wales.”
At this point the top three look to be too far in front of the rest of the chasing pack to be challenged, with just the order between the current second and third ranked teams, England and Australia, to be decided. However, the fourth spot is currently a three way fight between the Boks, Ireland and Wales, with the South Africans destined to spend some nervous moments awaiting results of Six Nations games played between January and March.
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