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By Johan Ackermann

Coach and former player


Johan Ackermann: Smart move by Boks to go 5-3 on bench against France

The other big question is, how will France deal with the expectation?


What a great pity the Springboks versus France match is not the World Cup final! For me, it is good enough to be the final match and I really wish these two great teams could have met later on. Anyway, what an exciting weekend of rugby lies ahead. I can’t believe we’re already at the quarter-finals stage. First off … the French are under so much pressure going into this quarter-final; the fans expect them to go all the way, their form has been good, and they’re at home. How will they react to it? That is the big question.…

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What a great pity the Springboks versus France match is not the World Cup final! For me, it is good enough to be the final match and I really wish these two great teams could have met later on.

Anyway, what an exciting weekend of rugby lies ahead. I can’t believe we’re already at the quarter-finals stage.

First off … the French are under so much pressure going into this quarter-final; the fans expect them to go all the way, their form has been good, and they’re at home. How will they react to it? That is the big question.

When you play at home in a big game, the pressure and support either lifts you up or it can drain the energy out of you.

And if you fall behind early on then you can start to force things and you chase the game, and that’s when errors creep in. It’s also when players start thinking about being the hero and individualism takes over. Scoreboard pressure is a horrible thing and that’s why the Boks need to keep France out for as long as they can.

So, how will the French players channel the expectation? That’s going to be the key.

Dupont’s return

Antoine Dupont’s selection is a big one for him and the team, but one’s got to ask if he’s fully fit and ready to play this weekend?

We all know he’s a big player who always puts his body on the line, so will he do so again, will he be 100% committed, especially in defence, or will he be hesitant in contact?

Let’s also not forget he hasn’t played for three weeks and I know from experience that you’re just not as sharp as you should be and that’s the gamble the French have taken. I don’t know if that sharpness will be there … if it is, then he’ll be a big danger to the Boks.

Bok physicality

It’s a good French team, with lots of X-factor at the back and there’s still a bit of unpredictability about them, but will they stand up to the Boks’ physicality and intensity over 80 minutes?

I feel the French props are big and strong but can they keep up with the class and experience of the Boks’ front-row players over the course of the whole match? I doubt it, to be honest.

Their locks are athletic, but they’re not as physical as the Boks’ locks so they’re in for a big test, and then at the back, how will the French handle the Boks’ rush pressure defence? It’ll be the first time they’ve had to deal with such a potent defensive system at this World Cup.

Bench

The speed and conditioning of the Boks sets them apart from other teams and that’s why I like the 5-3 bench split, too.

You’ve got the back-up of Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux, all seasoned men who can lift the energy when they come on, but they can also slow things down and bring calm to the proceedings if that is what’s needed.

In a close game you need that kind of experience at the end and it’s going to be a tight one. Pollard’s late kicking ability could also be crucial.

It’s also why Dune Vermeulen is starting … he’s got so much experience, he knows the French crowds, he’s a leader. He and many of the Boks know what big knockout rugby is about.

This is a great Bok team with no weaknesses. Here’s hoping for a cracking game and a Bok win!

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