South Africa shapes as big 2023 World Cup threat - McGeechan

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Former British & Irish Lions player and coach Sir Ian McGeechan said in his Sunday Telegraph column that playing with and against South Africans challenged opponents to be able to withstand their physicality. That was a long-term benefit for European rugby.

 

"You have only got to talk to coaches in New Zealand to understand the benefits of exposure to South African rugby.

 

"One of the reasons why the All Blacks have been so good in the professional era is that they have had to play South Africa multiple times each year," he said.

 

While South African teams were weaker from their players heading overseas, playing the Springboks had kept the All Blacks honest by 'mandating that they have to produce forwards who can stand up to the physical onslaught,' he said.

 

 

The inclusion of South African provinces in the United Rugby Championship has supplemented the high number of South African players contracted to clubs, and competing in the Champions and Challenge Cups would add to the integration.

 

In the immediate future, McGeechan felt the benefits for South Africa would be borne out in the Rugby World Cup in France in 2023.

 

When South Africa played Ireland and Scotland in their pool games, the shock factors the All Blacks experienced in Dublin and Paris last month would be absent.

 

"In the long term, it will raise the standards of European rugby and contribute to a more vibrant game – and that can only be a good thing," he said.

 

Individual players signing for European clubs was another benefit.

 

"I know from long experience that South African players are a joy to coach, and that they bring high standards and drive a culture of accountability and responsibility within clubs," he said.

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