Former Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers believes the world champions must keep their wits about them to defend their title at “the most fiercely contested World Cup ever”.

Jacques Nienaber’s troops find themselves in a tough Pool B alongside Ireland, Scotland, Romania and Tonga for the global spectacle, which kicks off in France in September.

SA will launch their World Cup title defence on Sunday, 10 September, against Scotland in Marseille, which will be followed by pool matches against Romania in Bordeaux (17 September), Ireland in Paris (23 September) and Tonga in Marseille (1 October).

Scotland and Ireland are looking particularly ominous in the Six Nations, while Tonga’s best single match win at a World Cup was an upset victory in 2011 over eventual finalists France.

Speaking during a local golf day on Saturday, De Villiers told Sport24 that if the Boks can remain focused they will have a shout in what is expected to be a competitive World Cup.

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“We shouldn’t drop the ball. Look, it will be the most fiercely contested World Cup ever,” he said De Villiers.

“There are a lot of teams that are good enough to win it and to beat each other on any given day. South Africa is right at the top as a contender.”

“I think we’ve got a pretty good squad that we can select from and it will actually be very difficult to narrow down to 31, but we’re in for a shout.

De Villiers added: “The thing about a World Cup, you need a bit of luck as well and I think a little bit of luck needs to be on our side because it’s a tough route and tough pool.

“We know that in the quarter-finals, we might see New Zealand or hosts France and then the semi-finals will be tough too.

“So, it’s all to play for, but certainly South Africa’s there for a shout. And if there’s one team any of the others do not want to play against in the World Cup, South Africa will be on top of the list.”

Photo: @Springboks/Twitter

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