South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus does not believe that his knowledge of the Ireland players will give his side any advantage should they meet in a World Cup quarter-final.
New Zealand were handed the advantage in Pool B today following their thrilling 23-13 win over the Springboks in Yokohama with tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett.
The result increases the chances of South Africa and Ireland meeting at the quarter-final stage though Erasmus is more concerned with the remaining group games.
“We’ve got an important game against Italy along the way, we’ve got Canada and Namibia also but Italy, in the last two years, we’ve had slippery games against Italy so I must mention them before we start talking about the quarter-finals now as this game put some pressure on us.”
South Africa began the game in stylish fashion with a monstrous kick from Handre Pollard after just one minute. Although Steve Hansen’s side took a 17-3 lead into the break, the Boks reduced the gap to just three points at one stage following a try from Pieter-Steph du Toit and an effortless drop goal from the fly-half.
The former Munster coach believes that South Africa can still reach the World Cup final though admits that it will be more difficult given today’s result.
“Yes, I think we can fight back. I thought, even in the game, we fought back. Half-time, to be 17-3 down, I’ve seen South African teams get 50 points when they are that amount of points down against New Zealand.
“To be down 17-3 and get back to 17-13, and we are in their 22 and close to scoring a try – and then just one or two great turnovers from New Zealand.
“But, surely, if you are grouped with New Zealand in a pool, you’ve got a good chance of not going undefeated through your pool, and then you have to fight back and try to get to the final for the first time in history by not being unbeaten. So, we have to go that route now.
“We would have loved to win to have got some momentum going to the quarter-finals, but I tell you, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, there are so many teams that can currently do well on the day.
“Looking at Wales and England in two consecutive weekends, they smashed each other and even New Zealand and Australia, on two consecutive weekends, the score went from 40 points to one, to 40 points the other one.
“Again, today, I wouldn’t say the scoreboard flattered us but if New Zealand scored another try it would have been a good hiding. But, there was almost a time in the game where we made the game really, really close so there is such small margins between a good hiding or you can really claw it back.”
Erasmus previously spent 16 months in Ireland as Director of Rugby and head coach of Munster. Last month, he brought former Munster and Ireland player Felix Jones on board as the country’s attack coach.
Despite his in-depth knowledge of Irish rugby, the 46-year-old has no preference of which team he faces in the quarter-final.
“So, to answer you I wouldn’t prefer Ireland or Scotland, I’m not really sure.
“Gregor is a great coach, Joe is a great coach. Obviously, I know the Irish players really well but they know us as well so I’m not sure who would have the advantage in that regard.”