Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has warned his former Munster players that beating New Zealand will only make it harder for Ireland as they build towards next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Erasmus picked up a win over the All Blacks in New Zealand earlier this year as he continues to rebuild the two-time World Cup winners, but believes the spectacular success of Joe Schmidt’s side in downing the world champions 16-9 in Dublin last weekend has merely made them a target.
“If you beat New Zealand it gives you a lot of confidence, but sometimes the problem is what does that do to the opposition you are playing next?” said Erasmus.
“There is a lot of expectation on you when you beat the All Blacks. Everyone then expects you to automatically beat everyone else from then onwards. People start coming for you and start to analyse you really hard to beat you, because you’ve just beaten New Zealand.
The Irish players will definitely get a lot of belief from that win and it is excellent for them a year out from the World Cup.
While the Springbok boss wasn’t surprised to see Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time on home soil at the weekend, he still believes Steve Hansen’s men will be the team to beat in Japan next year, as they aim to make it a hat-trick of global titles.
“It was a proper, proper test match, very intense, and I thought Ireland could do it, because Joe is a great coach and the Irish players are really professional,” said Erasmus. “New Zealand has been going through a little bit of a dip but, knowing New Zealand, they will pull the ropes together and get it right before the World Cup. The World Cup is going to be an open race next year. We managed to pip New Zealand in a close game, Scotland almost had them last year and so did England earlier this month. We then all saw what happened with Ireland beating them in Dublin. Obviously, the clear favourites are New Zealand and Ireland, but Wales is one of those teams that is hovering there and thereabouts.
To nominate who will be the four semi-finalists for the World Cup is currently impossible. It is so close, with only one or two points in it, which is great for the game, but not always for the coaches.
"With the World Cup being played in Japan, we all know it is going to be warm and humid, so it won’t be a benefit to the southern hemisphere teams. Nor will it benefit the northern hemisphere sides, so that will make it a pretty level playing field.
“It is going to be a pretty interesting year.”