Manie Libbok can bring out the best in deadly Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe. Handre’ Pollard is a plodder by comparison, writes Mike Greenaway.
Adiuvat or Fortune Favours the Bold was the motto of the British commando unit that wreaked havoc behind German lines during World War II and the Springboks should adopt it on Sunday night when they venture into the seething cauldron of the Stade de France at the Rugby World Cup.
Some 80,000 frenzied Frenchmen in the stands await the Boks, while on the field they must deal with 23 of that country’s finest ever rugby players, possibly including the freakishly good Antoine Dupont.
The scrumhalf captain broke a cheekbone a few weeks ago but has seemingly been resurrected for the Boks.
To call Dupont a talisman is an understatement. After all, his injury was raised with concern in the French Parliament and the hapless Namibian who perpetrated the blow to the most famous cheekbone currently in rugby is lucky he escaped the guillotine, nevermind the country.
Apparently, the best surgeon in France fixed Dupont but I suspect he disappeared to a little Gaullic village in Normandy where Getafix, the famous druid of Asterix fame, administered his magic potion.
Asterix, sorry Dupont, is miraculously back and my point is that the Boks will not be on a level playing field on Sunday night — they will be pressing against the weight of 68 million Frenchmen.
This brings me back to my opening line. This Latin phrase has for thousands of years reminded folk that there can be rich rewards for those prepared to risks. In the context of a rugby match, I am not suggesting the Boks play recklessly. Rather they must be bold in picking X-factor players in the backline that can win them the game.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 11, 2023
If the Boks play as they normally do and engage in an arm wrestle with the French, they will lose — their opponents are too good plus they have a player 24 in their support and, I venture, a player 25 in the form of the referee.
Referees are human and it has been proven that an atmosphere as intimidating as the one guaranteed at the Stade de France results in decisions favouring the home team, particularly when it is Monsieur Dupont who will be engaging with the referee.
The French know this from bitter experience. In the 2011 final at Eden Park, they outplayed the All Blacks in the final but the referee simply could not bring himself to penalise the legendary Richie McCaw, who lived offside in that game, in front of his home crowd.
The Boks need to change nothing in the forward department. The pack and the Bomb Squad can match, if not better, the French forwards.
I would then have game-breaker Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf instead of Faf de Klerk. The latter wears his underpants on his sleeve, nobody tries harder, but he makes mistakes as a result. Reinach is more measured in his game management abd is also a brilliant try poacher.
Manie Libbok must play flyhalf. Picking Handre Pollard to kick goals is defeatist and erroneous. Yes, he kicked coolly in the 2019 semi-final and final but that memory camouflages the fact that he misses plenty.
Libbok is one of the successes of the Word Cup and his ability to slip through defences and bring his back three into the game has not been done since Henry Honiball.
Libbok can bring out the best in deadly Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe. Pollard is a plodder by comparison.
Against Scotland, Libbok’s kick-pass to Arendse to catch and score without breaking his stride is the most sublime moment of the World Cup. Libbok bamboozled the Scottish defence by looking one way and kicking the other, with immaculate accuracy.
Artistry like that is priceless and it wins World Cups.
In a nutshell, the Boks must back their bruisers to blast the French up front and allow Libbok to unleash the cavalry at the back.