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World Champion Springboks don’t need to fear Six Nations champions France

Wales vs South Africa, Cardiff, 6 November 2021. South Africa's Ox Nche in action. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Wales vs South Africa, Cardiff, 6 November 2021. South Africa's Ox Nche in action. Picture: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Mar 23, 2022


Cape Town - France have been receiving deserved plaudits for winning the Six Nations at the weekend, but honestly, I wasn’t that impressed by Fabien Galthie’s team.

Yes, it was a wonderful effort to claim their first title since 2010 and grand slam in 12 years. Beating Ireland is always noteworthy, and Wales are always tough in Cardiff.

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Watching Les Bleus overcome England at the Stade de France last Saturday, though, left me unconvinced about whether captain Antoine Dupont and his team can really challenge the Springboks, the No 1-ranked team in the world at the moment.

Eddie Jones’ English outfit are quite some way off the pace at the moment, with the Australian coach trying to bring in some fresh faces and elements in a rebuilding job before the 2023 World Cup.

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But even so, they were still able to trouble the French on Saturday, and probably lacked the confidence to take their chances on attack.

Missing key figures such as Owen Farrell, Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi and Luke Cowan-Dickie made a huge impact for England, and they will be a much stronger side going forward and certainly at the World Cup too.

France appeared to do just enough to win the game and lift the trophy, but there are a number of question marks in their make-up that they will need to answer before taking on the Boks in Paris in November.

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Props Cyril Baille and Uini Atonio are outstanding in the loose and have wonderful ball skills, but can they handle the Bok front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane? And that’s before the “Bomb Squad” of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch comes on to the pitch – not forgetting Frans Malherbe, who is set to return from a long-term injury for the Stormers anytime now, as well as Sharks powerhouse Thomas du Toit.

Former Bulls youngster Paul Willemse has done well for himself to secure the French No 5 jersey, and his evolution from a No 4 enforcer-type second-rower to a more rounded lock has been great to watch. But he battled to hit the big time when he was in Pretoria, and facing the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert and a hopefully fit RG Snyman in November is another challenge altogether.

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French No 8 Gregory Alldritt was one of the stand-out players throughout the Six Nations, but while he was a consistent performer, he will have his hands full against Duane Vermeulen – or even Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw or Jasper Wiese.

Dupont was chosen as the World Player of the Year and is the talisman for this French team. My favourite part of his game is his box-kick, as he gets great height on it, and he can gain good distances on his kicks to touch as well. But it won’t be so easy to spark the French attack when Faf de Klerk is snapping at his heels …

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And so we can go on about the one-on-one match-ups, and the November 12 showdown against France will provide plenty of answers.

But if coach Jacques Nienaber can assemble his strongest team for the end-of-year tour, then the Boks don’t need to fear the French at all.

The South Africans were far from their best in 2021, but there were several mitigating factors. The first was the fact that they didn’t play any Test rugby in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and second was that they were missing a number of top players for lengthy periods of time – Cheslin Kolbe, Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Snyman and Malherbe, to name a few.

Add those five to the Bok match-23, and you’ve got a different team.

“Tonight was our 25th game together, and the World Cup final will be our 46th,” Galthie said after the win over England – but let’s see about that …