Nienaber on RWC 2023 draw: Let's first get out of pool before worrying about All Blacks

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Jacques Nienaber
Jacques Nienaber
Steve Haag/Gallo Images
  • Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is understandably not too preoccupied with having to potentially face either New Zealand or France in the quarterfinals of 2023's Rugby World Cup.
  • Instead, his team will first need to emerge from a tough Pool B that features Ireland and Scotland.
  • Nienaber insists that the decision not to play any international rugby in 2020 was "the right call".

The spectre of having to potentially face the All Blacks or hosts France in the quarterfinals of 2023's Rugby World Cup is the farthest thing from Jacques Nienaber's mind at the moment.

For that to remotely happen, his Springboks first need to get out of a Pool B that looks unexpectedly stiff.

South Africa on Monday were drawn together with Ireland, Scotland as well as an Asia/Pacific qualifier that could easily be Tonga or Samoa.

"If you look at our pool and the quality that will be present, then it probably wouldn't be the right thing to start focusing on quarterfinals and knock-out rugby," Nienaber told a virtual media briefing after the draw.

"You'll have to be pretty clued up and on top of your game to get out of the pool. The nice thing about it is that there are no two ways about it.

"It's quite strange to think that either South Africa, Ireland or Scotland might not make it into the play-off stages. It's going to be a tough pool, but I'm very excited."

Adding potential spice to proceedings in three years' time is the fact that the Springboks will be facing the Irish for the first time in the showpiece tournament ever.

They've also only faced Scotland twice, culminating in 46-29 and 34-16 victories in 1999 and 2015 respectively.

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 14: A view of Pools A and

"From our perspective (in terms of a tournament context), we'll now just focus massively on the next three years," said Nienaber.

"You'll need a proper squad with good experience to get out of the pool. That's the immediate aim."

However, given that the Springboks are the only team in World Rugby's top ten not to play international rugby in 2020, it's perhaps a folly to even concentrate much on the tournament.

The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed only served to remind everyone of the uncertainty the game finds itself in.

For now, the Springboks are simply trying to get some game-time ahead of next year's British & Irish Lions tour.

"The big thing for us is to take baby steps," said Nienaber.

"The first order of business is just to get international rugby back here. We've got our local game up and running again, so the next focus is getting international opposition."

Despite criticism from certain quarters that Argentina's creditable showing in the recently concluded Tri-Nations despite minimal preparation "ridiculed" South Africa's decision to withdraw, Nienaber insists that it was the correct course of action.

"I still believe we made the right decision. There were different lockdowns for different countries and ours was quite extreme," he said.

"From a player safety point of view, it was definitely the right call. But we'll now have to be creative in preparing us for international rugby next year. The guys are working hard behind the scenes in getting that going.

"We've got the British & Irish Lions next year too, so it's about approaching things gradually." 

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