Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Boks not in France to play in quarters … we’re here to win World Cup — Nienaber

The defending champions from 2019 take on their hosts in Paris on Sunday night.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says the Boks’ goal has always been to win the World Cup, otherwise why else would they play, as they prepare to take on hosts France in their quarterfinal clash in Saint-Denis on Sunday night.

It is going to be a brutally tough game for the defending champs to try and get through to the semifinals as they take on the hosts in their most iconic stadium, the Stade de France, in front of a full house of mostly partisan supporters.

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However, Nienaber claimed it doesn’t matter who they play and that the team was always prepared for an extremely difficult first knockout match.

“Since we started in 2020, our aim was to win the World Cup. Otherwise, why are you in it? Our aim was always to do that. Since the draw was made, we knew the quarterfinal would probably boil down to France or New Zealand,” explained Nienaber.

“It didn’t matter which team we played. It will be a tough quarterfinal, the same with Ireland and New Zealand. I think all the quarterfinals will be really close. All the teams are preparing to be in the semifinals and we go on from there.”

Bizarre system

Due to World Rugby’s bizarre system of picking the pools for the next World Cup directly after the current one, two of the current top four ranked sides in the world will be on their way home after the quarterfinals.

The other side of the draw features sixth ranked England, seventh ranked Wales, eighth ranked Argentina and 10th ranked Fiji.

Two huge quarterfinals are thus lined up, either of which could easily been deserving of the final, while two weaker quarterfinals will be battled out on the other side, although Nienaber believes they are all going to be exciting games.

“It’s going to be two massive games. Ireland and New Zealand is going to be a tough game too. They are both on form. We are on form, France is on form,” said Nienaber.

“They are going to be two humdingers of games, and the others also (in Marseille), even though they are not as high ranked.  But the four teams playing in Paris are very much on form and it’s going to boil down to execution and taking opportunities on the day.”  

Little to choose

Looking at the teams Nienaber thinks there is very little to choose between them and he believes that France are a well-rounded side that the Boks will have to be at their best to beat.

“There are not a lot of weaknesses in the French side, or all four teams playing this weekend. One thing a bit different is their kicking game. They make no bones about it – they prefer not to play with the ball,” said Nienaber.

“They pressurise you, try to suffocate you and force you into making errors, which is a very good defensive system from Shaun (Edwards, defence coach). So you have to find strategies around that and we have had to talk to that with our team selection.

“If you look at their set-pieces, they win their ball and then they have some X-factor, So they are a well-rounded team who puts teams under pressure and don’t give up, they play for 80 minutes.”