Springboks at the Rugby World Cup

So, how have we done in the Rugby World Cup?

RWC 2023 began last week and as of today (16/09/2023) South Africa has played one game, winning 18-3 against Scotland. Highlights here:

Am I the only one that thinks “FNB” when I see this kit? Maybe it’s just me..

No, there is definitely something there…

Anyway, like I did for South Africa at the Olympics, I delved into Wikipedia to see the history of the Springboks at the RWC and pick out chartable things I thought were interesting..

But First…

…there have only ever been 9 previous RWCs (2023 is the tenth), with the first in 1987. That seems super recent. So, let’s compare it to other popular team sports that have global competitions:

The RWC is only 36 years old and Handball has had a World Championship for 85 years. If you, like me, have no idea what Handball even looks like, here’s a link to the Men’s 2023 Finals.

Digression over, let’s get back to the topic..

RWC Winners

There have only been 4 winning countries. Here, with percentages:

SA and NZ have both lifted the Webb Ellis Cup thrice. However, let me be that guy and propose a different way of looking at things. Since we weren’t allowed to play in 1987 and 1991 due to Apartheid, let’s see what the chart looks like if we remove those years..


Springbok Squad

Looking at the make up of the squads over time, I wanted to see how many members were retained from previous WCs:

So, in 2023, we have 64% of players returning from the previous WC, the highest ever. Whether that correlates with World cup performance…

My eyeball correlator says “not really”. Winning = 1, 3rd = 0.33 & Quarter Final = 0.13 (Reciprocal of position, no idea if that’s a legitimate conversion, comment or contact me if you know a better method)

Let’s look at team experience. Here’s a chart showing cumulative World Cup appearances per WC Squad (before that year’s WC):

The current squad has 30 World Cups of previous experience (the most ever). How has experience translated to winning?

Hmm, we’ve had squads with lower cumulative experience winning (2007), and higher experience only making it to quarters (2011) and third place (2015). It’s almost as if it’s impossible to correlate WC performance with such a simplistic dataset. Who knew?

Points Analysis

Of the 1512 World Cup points we’ve scored till the end of the 2019 RWC, here’s the split:


For the avid Rugby supporter, this may be obvious but for me, seeing that kickers account for 42.5% of all points scored shows just how important they are.

Considering an iconic drop goal sealed our 1995 victory and seeing George Ford’s three drop goals in 10min helping England beat Argentina this RWC, it’s interesting seeing it’s relative unimportance in points. It seems to be a special tactic only used on occasion:

Across entire South African World Cup campaigns, drop goals are rare. Well, apart from Joel Stransky winning us the World Cup in 1995 and Jannie de Beer slotting in five against England in 1999.

Now with the chart part done..

Reliving the Memories

Watch the highlights of all the Finals we’ve won here:

And a special one from my favourite Rugby YouTuber:

If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with the Rugby World Cup, leave a comment below. To receive an email when I publish a post, subscribe here. For more RWC fun, check out this cool prediction model made by this person, subscribe to this YouTube Channel and re-watch this.

(Featured image remixed from this photo)



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