Springbok coaches confident Boks are 'better prepared' than in 2019

Springbok coaches confident Boks are 'better prepared' than in 2019

SA Rugby's head of athletic performance Andy Edwards believes the Springboks will hit their straps at the right time and are on course to defend their title as world champions in France later this year.

South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus also said recently that the Boks are better prepared for the 2023 Rugby World Cup than they were in the build-up to the global showpiece in Japan four years ago.

Edwards, who replaced current Leicester Tigers head of physical performance Aled Walters as the Springboks' fitness chief in 2020, echoed Erasmus' sentiments.

"We are now more aligned as a group, and I definitely agree with Rassie that it's going to hold us in good stead," he told TimesLive.

Edwards believes the Boks' victorious series in 2021 against the British and Irish Lions - which took place in a bio-secure environment - after they played very little preparatory Tests, as well as more than usual away matches during the away leg of that year's Rugby Championship in Australia, have galvanised Jacques Nienaber's troops.

"We have overcome all those challenges as a collective and I believe it should make us more settled going into big tournaments," he said.

Although the bookmakers have hosts France, Six Nations champions Ireland and New Zealand ahead of South Africa as favourites to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy, Edwards said the Boks are aware that teams will still be keen to beat them as the defending champions in France.

"You have got Ireland who are the reigning Grand Slam champions and are ranked No. 1 in the world. Everyone is also talking about France in France and weirdly New Zealand are seen by some as the underdogs," he added.

"As the Springboks, we are comfortable with where we are at and can take confidence from being settled as a group. Not settled in a comfortable way but to keep pushing.

"It's a healthy group that continues to show they can operate at the highest level and keep performing on the international stage."