The Springboks have announced their side for the quarter-final show down with Les Bleus at 9pm on Sunday evening, in Paris. It is going to be an incredibly tough fixture as the hosts try to topple the current World Champions in their bid to progress to the semi's. The Bok management have now shown their hand and made some bold but tactically sound selection calls, showing a clear intent for the manner in which they will tackle France on Sunday.
Up front the Springboks have gone for experience and selected an incredibly dominant pack. The combined caps in the starting 8 is 623 which works out to an average of 78 tests per player. This makes it the most experienced Springbok pack ever named to run out in the Green & Gold. Eben leads the charge here with 116 in total but all of the players are well past the half century mark.
In the backline there are two selections in particular that give a glimpse into what the Springbok coaches are looking to do, to counter France and to take out the refereeing factor in the same breath. The first is the selection of Cobus Reinach at 9. I would argue that Cobus should have been our primary scrummy since 2021 as he stepped up his game dramatically since then. He has also scored in every single World Cup game that he has started in. His pace and eye for a gap around the fringes is rivalled only by the young up and coming Grant Williams.
The second is Manie Libbok. Since the return of Handre to the squad, flyhalf has certainly been the most hotly debated position. Who do you start? Do you play both in the 23? Can Pollard come in at 12? Every situation has been debated in every corner of social media over the last few weeks. Sense has however prevailed and Manie will run out in the 10 jersey tomorrow. Handre is included on the bench and will make a massive contribution when he enters the fray later on.
By selecting Cobus & Manie, RasNaber have shown their hand somewhat. We can surely expect the Springboks to play a running game, keeping Les Bleus from settling into their own rhythm with our two pacey playmakers. These two will be tasked with speeding the game up and getting through, around and over that strong French defence. Then we have the added benefit of Faf and Pollie coming on with a wealth of experience, to close out the game later on.
The most important part of this selection though, is that it shows we are here to score tries and not to try to win by a mere penalty. The benefit of that is in the fact that building up a decent lead (as far as possible) will essentially take the referee out of the game, in a sense. It means that a tight call in the 78th minute, where Ramos slots one over, won't be the end of the Bokke. They will be preparing to bring a similar game to what we saw against the All Blacks at Twickenham so that they can control the outcome from the start.
This is in no way a dig at referee Ben O'Keefe, it is more a worry about those much loved French TV Directors, who seem to only ever show misdeeds against Les Bleus, whilst suddenly being unable to find the right angles to show to the crowd when it is their home side who have infringed. The referee can only go off what he sees, and the tv directors unfortunately have a large hand in that, which inadvertently controls the crowd too. RasNaber will be well aware of this and their selections show it.
If the Bokke can get on top of France early and dictate play as they have in some fixtures this year, then their destiny will be in their hands. We have certainly selected a 23 capable of getting the job done, now we need to go out there and do it. This quarter-final is going to be a match for the ages, and toppling the hosts is no easy feat. This Springbok side though, have the necessary tools and firepower to get the job done