Boks embracing French challenge in RWC quarters

The Springboks are embracing the challenge of facing the 2023 Rugby World Cup hosts, France, at Stade de France in the last of four quarter-finals at 21h00 on Sunday, and Bok assistant coach Daan Human and the players had no doubt it would be a top-class playoff match.

Human was thrilled about the Boks advancing to the quarter-finals after Ireland knocked Scotland out of the competition on Saturday night and said: “Our objective was to qualify for the quarter-final, so we are very happy, and we are looking forward to this week.”

Human said both teams had improved since their encounter in Marseille in November last year in what proved to be a humdinger of a match. The hosts won 30-26 as the Boks were reduced to 14 men early in the game due to a red card and added that it was difficult to single out their strengths as a team.

“I think they are better than last year, but so are we,” said Human.“ If you train hard, you’ll naturally get better as a team. But just as they believe in themselves, we believe in our players as well.”

When quizzed about France’s strengths, the former Springbok and Toulouse prop said: “They are strong in every department. That’s why they are the No 2 team in the world. They also won all four pool games and did very well against New Zealand, so there isn’t one area one can say they are particularly good at.”

Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane was thrilled to be in the squad and in with a chance to defend the title they won in Japan in 2019.

“I’m very pleased and excited to be here and I can’t wait for the next few weeks of rugby. We’ve been working as hard as we can to achieve our goals and hopefully, we can continue to do so,” said Nyakane, who plays his club rugby for French club side Racing-92 based in Paris.

Springbok No 8 Jasper Wiese added that the pressure on the team to perform was everything but a burden, saying: “We talk a lot about pressure, but it’s pressure that we see as a privilege. We are representing the whole squad and 60 million people in South Africa, so we want to give everything on the field.”

Similarly, to Human, both forwards spoke highly of the French pack and their scrum in particular.“It’s a very important facet in the game in France and in the Top 14 competition,” said Nyakane.

“They put a lot of emphasis on that area of the game. If you get it right, it’s a beautiful thing and it gives you a mental boost,” said Jasper Wiese.

France will certainly have a difficult set piece to move, but we also pride ourselves on our set pieces and gaining dominance from that. We’ve been working hard on our set pieces and there’s a lot more to do, but we are looking forward to the challeng”

Wiese added: “They have a very big pack, but we’ll be up for it. It’s always a nice challenge going up against a pack like that. It will be a big forward battle and even bigger collisions.”

The hard-running Bok No 8 said the team had taken valuable lessons from their last encounter against France, which will serve as good preparation going into this match. “It was an intense game, and we learned a few things from that match,” said Wiese.

“We know we need to front up and try to take their momentum away. They are big boys and if you let them run hard at you, they’ll do it throughout the match.” he concluded.The Springboks will travel to Paris on Monday to prepare for the quarter-final, which kicks off at 21h00 on Sunday and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

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