Jacques Nienaber, South Africa’s head coach, has described any suggestion that Ireland and Scotland could collude to send the Springboks out of the tournament this week as “match-fixing”.
Nienaber opted to respond to a question from a French journalist at the end of his side’s press conference following their win over Tonga in Marseille, when Nienaber was asked about the prospect of a pact between Ireland and Scotland given that with certain circumstances South Africa could go out of the tournament.
Nienaber could have batted away the question but opted to provide an answer.
“That would be match-fixing. It would be extremely disappointing,” he said. “Could I believe in a scenario that they would decide on a scenario that they would decide, ‘OK, they would get that amount of points and therefore get South Africa out of the World Cup?’
“That would probably be match-fixing, I would say, I hope not. Rugby’s clean, we wear those t-shirts, so I hope not. That would be extremely disappointing, don’t you think?”
The scenario where Scotland go through but South Africa crash out is remarkably complicated. Scotland would need to defeat Ireland by 21 points and secure a try bonus point, with Ireland in defeat also securing a try bonus-point.
That would leave all three sides tied at the top of Pool B on 15 points, with Scotland topping the group on points difference out of the three sides and Ireland finishing above South Africa due to winning their pool match in Paris.
To illustrate just how unlikely that would be, Scotland’s record win over Ireland came in 1997 by 28 points. They have not defeated Ireland since 2017, not by double digits since 2007 and not by more than 20 points since 2001.
South Africa defeated Tonga 49-18 but their previous defeat to Ireland means the Springboks will be watching Ireland’s game with Scotland on Saturday night along with everyone else to see if they have progressed to the last eight.
Meanwhile, Makazole Mapimpi, the South Africa wing, has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup after fracturing an eye socket against Tonga on Sunday.
Lukhanyo Am, the outside centre who was a key part of the 2019 side but suffered a knee injury in the warm-up match against Argentina in August, has been called up as Mapimpi’s replacement.