Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport


The masters of mind games – Springbok bosses keep France guessing

There are a number of questions the French will be asking themselves about the makeup of the Bok team.


The Springboks have told the rugby world they are undecided about who to pick for their Rugby World Cup clash against France in Paris on Sunday, but it is probably more a case of keeping their opponents guessing. The Boks normally announce their team early in the week ahead of a weekend game, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber saying in the past they know on the Monday morning already who will play at the weekend and even announce their team internally on a Sunday night. This week, however, they will name their team only on…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

The Springboks have told the rugby world they are undecided about who to pick for their Rugby World Cup clash against France in Paris on Sunday, but it is probably more a case of keeping their opponents guessing.

The Boks normally announce their team early in the week ahead of a weekend game, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber saying in the past they know on the Monday morning already who will play at the weekend and even announce their team internally on a Sunday night.

This week, however, they will name their team only on Friday morning — two days out from the quarter-final clash, a move that will keep French coach Fabian Galthie and his players hypothesizing about the makeup of the Bok team.

The questions they’ll be asking themselves include:

Will the Boks go with a 7-1, 6-2 or 5-3 split between forwards and backs on their bench?
Will Duane Vermeulen start ahead of Japer Wiese at No 8?
Will Handre Pollard or Manie Libbok wear the No 10 jersey?
Who’ll start in the front row and who’ll come off the bench?
Will Lukhanyo Am be a surprise pick at 13, or could it be Canan Moodie?

Mind games

Erasmus and Nienaber have become masters of playing mind games and it’s no surprise they’re at it again this week. They’ve even said they may pick their match-23 based on what French coach Galthie decides … what a load of bull.

No team, particularly this Bok group, are ever concerned about the opposition; they focus only on themselves.

This Sunday’s match is arguably the Boks’ biggest Test since the World Cup final of 2019. Lose and they’re out, all the planning, plotting, mixing and matching pointless, but win and the Boks will be well on their way to winning a back-to-back World Cup title.

Waiting for the winner in the semi-finals will be England or Fiji, neither of whom will strike any fear into the Boks. And then there’s the final.

But, France are also playing a few games of their own. Will captain and key man Antoine Dupont play or watch from the side?

It’s all set up to be an absolute cracker.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits