IF THE Springboks are to get their European tour back on track and be the team that pops the champagne in Paris today (kick-off 10pm SA time) they will have to tick several boxes.
Here, Independent Media rugby writer highlights what coach Rassie Erasmus’s team must do right for them to get the better of the Tricolors
JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN
PLAY WITH ‘ALL BLACKS MINDSET’
The Boks seem to always have an extra gear, and be more motivated and hungry, when they play against their greatest rivals, the All Blacks. They, however, need to lift their game to the highest level every time they run onto the field, no matter who the opposition is. The passion and desire they showed in Wellington this year – defensively – and then in Pretoria, when they dominated and should have won, must be the order of the day in Paris.
MALCOLM MARX NEEDS TO FIRE
One of five player-of-the-year nominees, the Bok hooker needs to come good again. Marx has not been at his best this season – he certainly hasn’t shown the form at Test level as he showed in Super Rugby – and needs a big game to spark the Bok pack. His primary job is finding his line-out jumpers – something he didn’t do last week against England – and he simply has to hit the mark this week; failing again will be unforgivable. Whatever he does at the breakdowns will be a bonus.
TACKLE, TACKLE AND TACKLE AGAIN
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Bok performance of a week ago is that they hardly gave England a sniff of their tryline; all the home team’s points coming via the boot. It was the first time this season that the Boks kept an opponent try-less ... and they need to be as stingy tonight. The good news is that the Boks have a team loaded with workhorses and men who simply love tackling – and don’t seem to get tired, like Franco Mostert, Pieter-steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Warren Whiteley.
FINISH OFF THE CHANCES
If the defence was encouraging last week, the attack wasn’t. The Boks created over 20 good chances, according to assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, but they only managed to score one try. That is not good enough at Test level, and the reason why they lost by a point. They need to be more patient this week, be clinical in their execution and pile the pressure on the French by converting their chances. Again, it’s that “killer instinct” of the All Blacks the Boks need to add to their game.
MAKE AN IMPACT OFF THE BENCH
Coach Rassie Erasmus has done a lot of good things this year, but he hasn’t figured out how to employ his bench just yet. When to make changes, and who to replace, has become something of a fine art, but it’s something the Boks need to get right, and soon. Marx should have been yanked last week after his line-out woes, but he wasn’t, until too late in the game. With quality, impact men on the bench, Erasmus needs to make the tough calls when called upon to do so.
HOW THEY LINE UP FRANCE:
Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Damian Penaud, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin, Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Cedate Gomes Sa, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Jefferson Poirot
Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Mathieu Babillot, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Gael Fickou
Willie le Roux, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Pietersteph du Toit, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff
Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe