Will The Springboks Become A Failure According To Rassie Or Not?

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There will be a lot to play for when then Springboks return to rugby. The World Rugby Executive Committee recommended a revised temporary 2020 international calendar earlier last month with the Castle Lager Rugby Championship 2020 scheduled to be hosted in full in New Zealand over a reduced six-week period between 7 November and 12 December.

Rassie Erasmus said earlier in the year that he will see the 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks as a failure if they do not continue with their form during the World Cup. Therefore new coach Jaques Nienaber is under tremendous pressure to keep winning and to introduce more black players to the Springbok jersey.

It will be fascinating to see if the Springboks can learn from the history and hit the ground running and hold onto the top spot for a lot longer than they did 13 years ago. Presently, they have a 2.08-point advantage over the All Blacks at the top of the rankings. Back in 1995, the World Rugby Men’s Rankings did not exist as a tangible measure of the world champions’ fall from grace but just one win in four Tri-Nations fixtures the following year tells its own story.

By 2007, though, the rankings had been around for four years and South Africa’s inability to build on their 2007 success in France coincided with a difficult period for their new head coach, Pieter de Villiers. During his four years in charge, from 2008 to 2012, he guided the team to a test series victory against the British and Irish Lions in 2009, won the Tri-Nations that same year and had a 47 per cent winning record against the All Blacks. However, a return of just two wins from his first six Tri-Nations encounters, even if one was a famous victory against the All Blacks in Dunedin, saw South Africa lose more rating points (3.06) in the 12 months post-Paris as opposed to England’s 2.94-point drop in the year following their Sydney heroics.

New Zealand, meanwhile, enjoyed unprecedented success in the four-year cycle between their Rugby World Cup wins of 2011 and 2015. They won 42 games, including a run of 17 victories in a row, achieving the first unbeaten international season in the professional era. During the first year of their reign as RWC 2011 champions, New Zealand improved their ranking points with a fraction under one-and-a-half points, with an overall rating of 91.43 points. Similarly, the 12 months after 2015, when Richie McCaw lifted the trophy for a second time they dominated to add 4.67 ranking points to a much-improved rating of 96.10 points.

The Springboks will be unbeaten for 53 weeks when they return to action in their first Rugby Championship game in New Zealand later this year on the seventh November 2020 and if they return from New Zealand unbeaten they will be the second team to achieve an unbeaten international season in the professional era.

New Zealand currently holds the record of 509 weeks consecutively at the top of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings before Wales overtook them following a 13-6 victory over England on the eve of Rugby World Cup 2019. The All Blacks’ reign as the number one team in the world ran for nearly ten years, from 16 November 2009 to 19 August 2019.