RWC 2023: Springboks’ hopes for World Cup quarterfinal hinge mostly on flyhalf selection

RWC 2023: Springboks’ hopes for World Cup quarterfinal hinge mostly on flyhalf selection

Springbok team announcements are seldom met with universal approval. There will always be fans who feel that Player A should have been selected ahead of Player B. In the wake of a defeat, the omission of Player A will inevitably be cited as the primary reason for the loss.

Now, imagine those reactions playing out on a much bigger scale.

On Friday morning, the Boks will unveil their matchday 23 for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) quarterfinal showdown with France on Sunday. No matter who the coaches select – at No 8, flyhalf, outside centre, fullback, and on the bench – several world-class players will miss the cut.

The biggest potential casualties in this scenario are Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, who have, in a sense, become victims of their own excellent planning.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub

Having worked with more than 100 players over the past six years, and having rotated their squad heavily in recent months, they’re suddenly sitting with a problem of fitting 33 excellent players into a matchday squad of 23.

Unsurprisingly, they have delayed their team announcement until Friday morning – breaking with the convention of naming their side at the start of the week.

With the team’s future at this tournament on the line – as well as their quest to claim back-to-back titles – they have to ensure that they get these selections right.

Goal-kicking strategy will influence selections

springboks quarterfinal libbok

Manie Libbok of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against Scotland at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille on 10 September. (Photo: Franco Arland / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images)

The Bok forwards laid the platform for World Cup title successes in 1995, 2007 and 2019, and the collective determination on defence went a long way towards winning those tournaments. The same could be said for the series victories against the British & Irish Lions in 2009 and 2021.

However, in every one of those big matches, accurate kicking at the crucial juncture shaped the outcome.

The Boks would not have won the 1995 World Cup if Joel Stransky had missed a late drop-goal attempt in the final. They might have lost the 2009 series as well as the 2021 edition if Morné Steyn had been less than flawless from the kicking tee.

Goal-kicking shouldn’t be an afterthought. One way or another, the coaches have to select their best kicker for what should be a tight contest against France on Sunday.

But the situation is far from clear cut in light of Handré Pollard’s late return to the squad.

Until recently, the Boks’ first-choice flyhalf hadn’t played Test rugby in more than a year. Following a late call-up to the World Cup squad, Pollard played 50 minutes against Tonga, before making way for Manie Libbok.

Pollard slotted four conversions in that final pool fixture, while Libbok rose to the occasion to nail all three of his attempts from the tee. Despite those encouraging performances, there are still a couple of nagging questions surrounding both players.

Pollard looked good against Tonga, but at this early stage of his return to play, can he be expected to last 80 minutes against France in what could be one of the most physically taxing games of the tournament?

In the playoffs, there is also the scenario of extra time to consider. Would Pollard last 100 minutes in a clash of this nature?


…. to be continued
Read full article at the Original Source
Copyright for syndicated content belongs to the linked Source : DailyMaverick –