Jacques Nienaber made it clear that Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux were picked in the Springbok back three to deal with France’s kicking game and iron-clad defence. DYLAN JACK reports.
As part of a handful of changes to the Springbok starting lineup, Nienaber named a rotated back three, recalling Willie le Roux, shifting Kurt-Lee Arendse to the left wing and moving Makazole Mapimpi to the bench.
While Mapimpi was superb defensively in the loss to Ireland in Dublin, Nienaber told the media on Tuesday that the call was very much horses for courses.
“I thought Willie brought good direction when he came on in the second half. He brings so much experience, he’s a well-seasoned fullback,” Nienaber said.
“We know Makazole is a quality player. We have three quality wings that can finish. We just think this is the best combination to face the French. We are going to face a particular style, which is different to other countries, and this is the best back three suited to handle it.”
It is telling that the one major strength Arendse has over Mapimpi is his kicking and that the Springboks have essentially selected three players very capable of kicking in their back three.
Given that France like to kick the ball long and trap teams in their own half, forcing them into errors and counter-attacking efficiently, Nienaber is trying to avoid the trap of running the ball back in Marseille.
“France play a little bit differently than other teams. They have a very unique kicking game,” explained Nienaber. “The last time lost was against Australia in 2021. So everyone trying to unlock France, but nobody has found the recipe.
“This is the challenge for us as coaches, to try and unlock that. They are very confrontational in terms of their ball carries. They have a good set piece, their lineout accuracy is around 90% and they have a good rolling maul.
“They are a stingy team on defence. With their kicking game, you don’t get close to their half. When you do get there, they are a really well-organised defensive side. This is a very different French team to the one we faced in 2018.
“Their kicking game is something that works for them. It’s very unique. From a coaching perspective, it’s quite exciting to see. There is great innovation and detail in that kicking game. It’s quite stimulating. We have plans around what we think will unlock it. There are some brilliant coaches who before us could not unlock this. We are excited to see if our plans will work.”
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