The Springboks will commence their title defence on the 10th of September at 17:45. Their first obstacle will be to overcome a Scotland side that have show immense promise in 2023 thus far, playing with great confidence and flair. The importance of this game can not be overstated in the grand scheme of things.
The Springboks enter the World Cup having won 5 of their 6 games in 2023. Their only loss coming at the hands of New Zealand in round 2 of the Rugby Championship (35 - 20) after a 20 minute blitz by the Kiwis in the opening stanza of the game. They managed to notch up victories over the Wallabies and Wales, as well as a double over Los Pumas. Whilst their final game ahead of the tournament was a stunning 35 - 7 victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham. I would say that any coach looking back on that build up would probably be able to muster a wry smile.
Scotland on the other hand are also in pretty great form. They have a backline that are absolutely lethal in attack. Run by their general Finn Russel, they have gone about dismantling teams quite nicely. Pushing France right to the limit, having a hugely successful 6 Nations campaign and ending off their preparations with a commanding 33 - 6 victory over Georgia at the weekend.
Their centre pairing of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones have clicked so well that it almost looks rehearsed every time they touch the ball. Their linking play allows Finn Russell to roam just behind them giving him the time to assess were to send the ball and allowing them to offload to a 10 who really can place it anywhere on the field, whether it be with a cross kick, an up-and-under, a sneaky grubber or sending it out wide with the flick of a wrist.
What has made Scotland even more deadly is the form of South African born winger Duhan van der Merwe. He brings everything you'd expect of a traditional South African forward but then he has the pace to play on the wing. He is an absolute menace with ball in hand and has a keen ability for spotting a gap and the skillset to exploit it. Shutting him down, is winning half the battle against the Scots.
On the other wing they have a favorite of mine in Darcy Graham who is a try scoring machine. He has had some struggles with injury of late but is expected to be available for selection in the opening test against the Bokke. Should he not be available, there is a more than capable replacement in the shape and form of another South African, Kyle Steyn. If you haven't picked up what I am putting down yet, I'll make it plain and simple. The Scottish backline are not to be underestimated and really boast the skill set and power game to challenge the Boks.
The biggest focus of this clash will be amongst the forwards. I am not sure that Scotland have the power game up front to match the Springboks. It will not simply be about matching our physicality but it will be about managing to do that for 80 minutes with a potential 6/2 split or greater to contend with in the second 40. If Scotland can match up physically, the Springboks really are going to have their hands full shutting down the Scottish attack, so we need to hope for the same levels of intensity from the men in Green and Gold as they dished up at Twickenham a few days ago.
The importance of this clash is unbelievably high. It will set the entire tone of Pool B and whichever side loses will be staring down the barrel of a pool stage exit from week one, which is far from desirable. Underestimate Scotland at our own peril, for they will be licking their lips for this one.