Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Next year’s World Cup has always been the long-term goal, says Rassie

"The fact that we won in 2019 was very nice, but we did have a long-term goal in place.”

When the current Springbok management group took over in 2018, with Rassie Erasmus as head coach at the time – before he became SA director of rugby after the 2019 World Cup and Jacques Nienaber took over – they had a plan in place.

The focus was on winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and although the Boks surprised many in powering to the title at the 2019 edition, that still remains their main goal.

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“When we started back in 2018 we said it from the start, that we have to win, we have to change how we operate and what the team looks like and represents, and we have to build squad depth and get experience into the guys,” explained Erasmus.

“That was actually with an eye on 2023. If you look at an example of a team being successful (at World Cups) back to back, New Zealand, when they won it in 2011, their average age was 28 and their average Test caps per player was 35.

“Then when they won it again in 2015 their average age was 28, so they brought in enough youngsters while keeping their experience, but their Test caps went up to 45.”

Long-term goal

Erasmus continued: “How we are currently looking with our team, we will probably have an average age of 29 next year and close to 46 Test caps per player. So yes we did lose out (on development) in the Covid year, but we were preparing for 2023 when we started out.

“So we lost a year but luckily our target was always a long-term one. The fact that we won in 2019 was very nice, but we did have a long-term goal in place.”

Nienaber admitted that due to that missing year of international rugby in 2020, this season’s end-of-year-tour is vitally important for the team in building towards next year’s showpiece event in France.

ALSO READ: Springboks set to back Willemse at flyhalf with Jantjies, Pollard out of Euro tour

He reiterated, however, that the door to play for the Boks at the World Cup would not be closed on anyone if they did not make the Springbok or SA A squads for the tour.

If they bashed the door down in club rugby next year, they could be selected.

“That is why it is so important for us on this end-of-year-tour to have the four Test matches and two SA A games to build up the players into our system,” Nienaber said.

“But if you look at what happened in 2019 with a guy like Herschel (Jantjies), he wasn’t on our radar in 2018, but then he played so well in 2019, used his opportunity and made the step up from Super Rugby straight into Test matches, so it can happen.”

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