Two-time champions and never failed to progress from the pool stages when taking part. The Springboks have had a rocky time since the last World Cup. However, this past year the team is showing a glint of hope – is it enough to bring home a 3rd World Cup?
The below graph shows yearly win percentage for South Africa versus the eventual winner in each World Cup cycle.
The 4 yellow bars on the far left denote Australia’s win percentage for the years leading up to their World Cup win in 1999 (so the left most bar is Australia’s win percentage in 1996, the next 1997, then 1998, and finally 1999). The grey bars in the 2003 cycle are England’s winning percentage in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. The dark green is South Africa in 2007. The black bars show New Zealand 2011 and 2015 World Cup cycles. The orange bars on the far right in the 2019 cycle show the average win percentage for a World Cup winner, as we don’t yet know the winner of the 2019 World Cup.
The dark green bars in the below graph represent South Africa’s win percentage in each of the years of these World Cup cycles. It can clearly be seen South Africa have had 3 tough years with 2016 being a particular low point. Interestingly South Africa’s winning year, 2007, was preceded by 3 years of comparatively terrible win percentages. On the far right we see how poorly they are shaping up against the previous RWC winners. Does this spell worrying signs or will it be a rerun of 2007?
What can we deduce from the above? Mostly that they have had a fairly terrible run of form. However, in saying this we must consider the competition they regularly face in the Rugby Championship and also how close they kept some of the losses they faced. In the 7 matches they lost in 2018 the average losing margin was around 7 points.
The other important answer is that the Springboks have a lot more beyond the stats (an astonishing admission from us at Rugby4Cast). Possibly only bested by New Zealand, the Springboks are big rugby fans. It flows in their veins and we are all aware how important rugby, particularly World Cup rugby, has been in South Africa’s history. This year we have seen the first black captain, and while we like to steer away from individual analysis at Rugby4Cast, we see this as an important factor in what has been a rebuilding period for Springbok rugby.
If we are to look at South Africa’s numbers, the years leading to the 2007 win were not particularly special, if anything the opposite. 2006, the year before South Africa rugby lifted the Web Ellis trophy, saw them win only 50% of their matches. ‘Form’ then, is perhaps something that is not indicative of a strong South African World Cup side.
Indeed, it can be seen from the above that their best finishes seem to be preceded by some of their worst 4 year cycles. However, with the past 3 years being three of their worst ever they will need to draw on something special to finish anywhere close to previous finishes.
[Group B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada]
Of all the teams in their group they have only lost to New Zealand recently, so assuming all else goes to plan they should clear the group stages with few problems. However, with Ireland a likely quarter final contestant, and with Ireland on a real run of form, South Africa will have their work cut out for them in reaching the semi finals or beyond. After that they are likely to meet another big contender in England, Australia or Wales, before a likely rematch with New Zealand in the final. The South Africans do not have a favourable draw.
However, they are a young team with some aces up their sleeves. A passionate, new captain and the incredible Aphiwe Dyantyi – recent winner of the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year – are two in particular. If South Africa are going to win the 2019 RWC it would be a real achievement, especially from a stats perspective, but they are a team that possess the passion, drive and support for such a win.
Gone are the days of ‘kick-tennis’ South Africa, we see them as one of the most exciting teams heading into the 2019 RWC, and will be watching closely!
Did you like this? Please see our overall World Cup team analysis here, and watch out for other teams when they become available.