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An expert view on Boks' triumph in France

SPOTLIGHT: Pierre Dantin, a French professor specialising in high performance, decodes the Springboks’ formula for glory at the 2023 World Cup in France.

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The Springboks claimed their second consecutive World Cup in 2023 in a nail-biting Final against the old foe All Blacks.

The accolade was exceptional as they beat New Zealand 12-11, making South Africa the first country with four World Cup wins.

Hosts France, along with Ireland, were regarded as favourites to secure the Webb Ellis trophy. However, the Boks’ one-point victories in the quarterfinals (29-28 against France), semifinals (16-15 against England) and Final made sure they shocked the rugby fraternity.

In conversation with Mathieu Bastareaud in the third episode of BastaShow, Dantin admitted the key to the Boks’ success is to be found deep within the players themselves.

*The BastaShow is available exclusively on the RugbyPassFR YouTube channel.

“They weren’t the favourites,” recalled Dantin.

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“But you can feel that this team has an inner drive. Watching the films of their personal lives, it is first and foremost built on history, their origins, the pride of allegiance, and the strong feeling of being on a mission for a country.

“Listen to Kolisi”, he recommended to Mathieu Bastareaud in the BastaShow.

“You get the impression you’re listening to one of Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren in his approach. He is what he is. Cheslin Kolbe is like that too. That’s the Springbok spirit.”

*Article continues below…

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Dantin said it is the team’s culture on the one hand and its strategy on the other.

“What made them win was also the strength of what they are and what they are not, and how they have to adapt to others,” said the professor.

“Tactical battle, the art of trickery, means understanding what the other is going to do when he tries to adapt to you. It’s about timing ahead, not timing behind. The fact that you have a [seven-one split on the] bench already creates doubt in minds,” he said, referring to the tactics adopted by the then Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus to beat France in the quarterfinals.

“But above all, it’s about absolute loyalty. If Kolisi hasn’t been good enough in a match, he’ll sit out. All of them, whatever their reputation, whatever social representation we have of them, are all first and foremost Springboks and players.

“That’s something to think about. It avoids putting crazy pressure on each other and having a smarter saver. What saves you in rugby is the team.”

One-man rock band

Dantin urged France to take a leaf out of the Boks’ manual and has warned teams not to ultra-use their playmaker, referring to Antoine Dupont’s role.

“Everything that has happened around Antoine Dupont has created the conditions for a form of intrinsic doubt,” comments Dantin.

“Rugby has become a bit footballised, as if everything revolved around a single symbol [Dupont]. He’s a genius, he’s a great guy, he’s extraordinary, but you can’t ask him, three weeks after an anaesthetic, to play for 80 minutes and be harassed by the scrumhalves.

“It’s very easy to say that after the game. And everything I say is not a judgement,” he warned.

Dantin was asked if  Les Bleus had lost their momentum after the massive defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations opener in Marseille on February 2.

“What happened was a bit too big to be true. We’ll have to wait for the rest of the tournament to confirm or deny,” said the Professor.

“Does Antoine’s presence or absence mean that French rugby is dependent on a single player? That’s very sad for rugby.

“It would be an insult to all the other players, regardless of Dupont’s genius. He’s outstanding. But the South Africans have also shown how to play.”

He repeated: “We need to capitalise on everything we’ve learnt and let it serve as a lesson.

“Let’s transform it quickly and ensure that this start of the tournament is nothing more than a counter-event.”

 

 

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