VIDEO: Boks must win the 'big moments'
The build-up to South Africa’s World Cup quarterfinal face-off against France in the Stade de France cauldron on Sunday has been dominated by talk about the fitness of captain Antoine Dupont.
However, for the defending champions, the Springboks, the key is raising the bar to avoid another close loss against the tournament hosts.
In the last couple of years the Boks suffered a number of close losses – most notably the 8-13 loss to Ireland in the pool match at the same venue last month, another one-score defeat when they went down 16-19 to the men for the Emerald Isle in Dublin last year and the most significant outcome – the 26-30 loss to France in Marseille on the year-end tour in November last year.
In each of those games South Africa had late opportunities to secure the win, but failed to do so.
Bok attack coach Felix Jones believes the team must avoid Saturday’s game going down to the wire.
Asked what the Boks need to change or improve to turn those one-score losses into victories, he told @rugby365com the Springboks need to avoid the game going down to the last play.
“There has been a number of games over the last two to three years where it went down to the last play of the game, the last kick of the game, a penalty in the last minute or two,” Jones said.
He added that the Boks won some of those and lost some of those – most notably against the two top-ranked teams, Ireland and France.
(WATCH as South Africa’s attack coach Felix Jones speaks to @king365ed about the key aspects of their World Cup quarterfinal against France in Paris on Sunday…)
“We expect this to be a very tight game,” the England-bound Jones said.
“You probably do not want to let it get to that stage,” he said of those close losses.
“You need to nail your bigger moments in the first 70 minutes and not let it get to that stage,
“If it does [happen], the we need to be accurate.
“We were disappointed that we could not finish off our final opportunity [in the pool match] against Ireland [last month].”
He reiterated the need for the Boks to “nail” the big moments in the first 60 to 70 minutes to ensure the game doesn’t go down to the wire again.
“The last few minutes are always a huge pressurised environment,” he said.
“You have to trust what you did in training.”
8+0. 7+1. 6+2. 5+3 = 8.
4+4 🤔 pic.twitter.com/GI50RCq4vy
— Rassie Erasmus (@RassieRugby) October 12, 2023
Jones also said the Springboks to limit the impact of Dupont.
The French captain returned to training this week, after undergoing surgery to mend a cheekbone fracture.
“He has a big impact on the players around him and gives them belief,” Jones told a pre-match media briefing.
“We can’t control the presence he brings, we can only control trying to stop the many talents and abilities he has.”
Dupont’s importance to France is underlined by the fact he is yet to lose on home soil as skipper.
The 26-year-old, who was named World Rugby player of the year in 2021, has been instrumental in France’s success since taking over the captain’s armband from flank Charles Ollivon in November 2021.
“World player of the year, if you have that title you’re a special player,” Springboks’ scrumhalf Cobus Reinach said.
“He’s proven it playing for Toulouse and the French team.
“Every game is a highlight reel with a magic moment, a cross kick or a pass or pulling someone back over the tryline,” he added.