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Springboks have to be 100 percent switched on against France


Willie le Roux can dovetail well with Damian Willemse to spark the Springbok attack against France on Saturday.

Willie Le Roux will bring added firepower to the Springboks attack against France. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Cape Town – It was strange to see Makazole Mapimpi named among the Springbok replacements for Saturday’s Test against France in Marseille (10pm kick-off), as he has started each of his 34 matches up to now.

The 32-year-old speedster from Tsholomnqa in the Eastern Cape has a fine record of 22 tries since making his debut against Wales in 2018, and is a deadly finisher whenever he is near the whitewash, and is also a solid defender.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, though, made an interesting call in announcing his team yesterday with a back-three of Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse – with Mapimpi on the bench.

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Damian Willemse is still at flyhalf after battling with his kicking game last week, Faf de Klerk gets an opportunity at scrumhalf after an impressive cameo in the defeat to Ireland, while in the forwards, Franco Mostert is at No.5 for the injured Lood de Jager, and Bongi Mbonambi and Ox Nche will bolster the front row.

There is a five-three bench split as well, which sees Stormers star Manie Libbok in line for a Test debut and Cobus Reinach earning a recall.

Le Roux’s energy on attack when he came on in the second half of last week’s 19-16 defeat to Ireland in Dublin was clearly a light-bulb moment for Nienaber, though, while Arendse and Kolbe’s fullback and counter-attack skills will be vital in handling France’s strong kicking game.

“I thought Willie brought good direction when he came on in the second half, and he brings all that experienced that he’s picked and is a well-seasoned fullback. With the likes of Cheslin and Kurt-Lee … We know Makazole is a quality player, and we’ve got three really good wings who can finish,” Nienaber said from Toulon yesterday.

“We just thought that’s the best combination to face the French. We are going to face a particular style of play, which is maybe a little bit different to other countries, and we think they are the most suited back three to handle that.

“Did we utilise our turnovers and opportunities to the fullest against Ireland? No, we didn’t, and that’s what I spoke about after the game and we spoke about as a group.

“When we create opportunities like that, there must be an excitement of note, that we must come alive.

“And maybe we didn’t ignite like we could’ve in those situations, and it’s something that we as coaches must take on the chin.

“There are a lot of things that we mentioned in the week, and maybe we must put more of an emphasis or spotlight on that. But we certainly spoke about that, and if we do get opportunities in the French game, I’m sure the guys will be bubbling with excitement to utilise those opportunities.

“You have to switch on and have massive excitement with ball-in-hand, and use that 10 to 15 seconds of unstructured defence that you will face.

“They play differently to other teams – they have a very unique kicking game that they bring to the party.

“The last time they lost was against Australia in 2021, so they are 11 on the trot.

“So, everybody is trying to unlock France, but no one has found the recipe yet. They bring a very confrontational team in terms of ball-carriers – they’ve got some big men.

“They’ve got a good set-piece, with their line-out accuracy over 90 (%). They’ve got a good rolling maul … And then I’m not even talking about their defence. They are quite a stingy team and don’t allow teams to – with their kicking game, you don’t get close to their half. When you do get there, they are a really well organised defence.”


Starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Damian Willemse 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Jasper Wiese 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (capt) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Vincent Koch 19 Marvin Orie 20 Kwagga Smith 21 Cobus Reinach 22 Manie Libbok 23 Makazole Mapimpi

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