Boks still face threat of being eliminated from RWC 2023 — here’s how

Boks still face threat of being eliminated from RWC 2023 — here’s how
Kwagga Smith of the Boks in action against Tonga at Stade Velodrome on 1 October, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images)

The Springboks are not mathematically through to the last eight of the Rugby World Cup but it would take an extraordinary turn of events to eliminate the reigning world champions.

The Springboks are in that twilight territory all sports teams dislike. They are not entirely in control of their destiny at Rugby World Cup 2023, as there is still a mathematical chance they could be eliminated from the tournament.

It’s a miniscule possibility the Boks could be ousted, but it exists nonetheless.

Sunday night’s Pool B 49-18 win over Tonga, in which the Springboks scored seven tries and therefore earned a bonus point, took the Boks to 15 points on the standings. That put them top of Pool B currently. It’s a strong, but not infallible position.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Boks win 10-try thriller against Tonga to all but secure Rugby World Cup quarterfinal spot

If Scotland beats Ireland by 21 or more points with a try-scoring bonus point, but Ireland score four tries in the process to earn a bonus point themselves despite losing in their final Pool B clash in Paris on 7 October, the Boks are out.

The first tie-breaker at RWC 2023 is head-to-head outcomes. But if there are three teams on the same points at the end of the Pool phase, which could happen here, then the tie-breaker to decide the Pool winner is points difference.

After that, it reverts back to the head-to-head result between the remaining two teams vying for the second spot.

Siya Kolisi, Boks

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi during his squad’s Rugby World Cup 2023 match against Tonga. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

In the scenario allowing Scotland to advance with 15 log points, they would need to win at least 41-20, and assuming Ireland scored four unconverted tries. All three teams would end the Pool phase with 15 points.

Scotland would top the Pool on points difference of +118 with the Boks +117 while Ireland would drop to +101.

But Ireland would advance to the last eight, even though their points difference would be inferior to the Boks’ because they won the head-t0-head clash against South Africa on 23 September.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup News Hub

What are Scotland’s chances?

Currently, the Boks are the top of the group on 15 points with Ireland in second on 14 points and Scotland in third with 10.

What are the chances of Scotland beating Ireland by such a wide margin?

Well, let’s just say it would be a huge surprise.

You have to go back to 2001 for the last time Scotland beat Ireland by that kind of margin, when they won 32-10 at Murrayfield.

But remember, for the Boks to be eliminated, Ireland would need to score four tries but still lose by 21-plus points.

Andre Esterhuizen

Andre Esterhuizen of the Springboks in action against Tonga during the Rugby World Cup 2023. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

The last time Ireland scored four tries against Scotland and lost was in 1938 when they went down 23-14 in an era when tries were worth just three points.

The more likely scenario for Scotland is that they advance at the expense of Ireland. To do that they would need to win by eight points, therefore denying Ireland a losing bonus point.

A scoreline of 15-7 in Scotland’s favour would be enough to send both them and the Boks through.

The upshot of the current Pool situation is that Ireland are still not safe either and perhaps in a more precarious position than the Boks. But at least they have control over destiny.

A win for Ireland over Scotland by any margin would see them top the group.

Boks coach Jacques Nienaber was asked if he was concerned that Ireland and Scotland would manufacture a result that could eliminate the Boks?

Nienaber seemed genuinely offended by the question. “That would be match-fixing, wouldn’t it,” the Bok coach replied. “Our sport is not about that.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tony Ah Tow says:

    Highly improbable. Currently, book makers would probably offer odds of a 100 to 1 or more on the Boks not going through to the quarter finals. As Jean dV said last night, there would have to be some serious match fixing and then some, for SA not to go through.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Yes bookies having a field day 😉

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