Springboks prepping for all scenarios as Pool B permutations are calculated

Dylan Coetzee
South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus before the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match at the Stade de Marseille, France. Picture date: Sunday September 10, 2023.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.

Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus insists his side is preparing for all possibilities for the quarter-finals given the plethora of permutations for Rugby World Cup Pool B.

At this stage heading into the final weekend of pool stage action, Ireland, South Africa and Scotland could all mathematically qualify for the knockouts, but with only space for two teams one has to fall out.


Incidentally, Scotland and Ireland face off this weekend whilst the Springboks are already finished with their group stage work. This means the result of that game will have a direct influence on who goes through.

Erasmus believes the Springboks did what they needed as he unpacked the permutations which look to be in his team’s favour, that is of course if Scotland does not beat Ireland by more than 20 points.

“If Scotland beat Ireland by eight points or more and Ireland don’t get a bonus point, then Ireland are out,” said Erasmus. “Then, if all three teams finish on 15 log points, the team with the best points difference will go through.

“If Scotland have the best points difference, then we’ll fall out because Ireland defeated us, but for that to happen Scotland must score four tries and beat Ireland by more than 21 points, and Ireland must also get a bonus point.

“On the other hand, if Ireland have the best points difference, then we’ll go through because we defeated Scotland.”

The top two in Pool B face the top two in Pool A which will likely be France and New Zealand. However, there is a slim chance that Italy could rattle the cage against France. The Springboks are preparing for all eventualities.

“From our point of view, we did what we had to do to go through, and we now have time to prepare for the different possible scenarios. Some of us will prepare for the All Blacks, and others for France,” said Erasmus.

“But France and Italy still have to play, so we’ll have guys preparing for Italy as well. Italy in particular are used to facing the northern hemisphere teams, so there are still interesting permutations in the competition.”


Permutations simplified

For South Africa to top the pool

Scotland would have to beat Ireland without the latter getting a losing bonus-point, resulting in the Springboks finishing top by virtue of the head-to-head rule over the Scots.

Scotland gets a bonus-point win with Ireland taking nothing from the game would see South Africa top and the Scots second.

Ireland to top the pool

Two points from the game will secure the world’s top-ranked side the first spot in the group.

Ireland loses with a bonus point and Scotland does not then the side tops the pool due to the head-to-head with South Africa.

Scotland to top the pool

It would require a bonus-point win over Ireland, allied by a 21+ point margin, and for Andy Farrell’s men to claim a try bonus-point of their own. That is the only way the Scots can top the pool and means the Springboks would go out.

Unique scenario

There’s an interesting situation which, albeit very unlikely, could occur this weekend. Should Scotland find themselves 16 points ahead during the game with both teams having claimed a try bonus-point, Ireland would be heading out. That would be because South Africa top the pool on points difference with the Scots finishing second due to their head-to-head result against Ireland.

However, if Gregor Townsend’s men were to score again to make the buffer 21+ points, Ireland head through because Scotland would be top on points difference and the Irish would take second due to their victory over South Africa in Paris.

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