Gameplan evolution takes South Africa back to World Cup quartersTue, 10 Oct 2023 04:05:13 GMT

South Africa’s Rugby World Cup success in 2019 was littered with iconic images from during and after the tournament win.Captain Siya Kolisi lifting the Webb Ellis trophy to wild celebrations across the country are two examples, but memories of the Springboks’ simple, clinical, well-executed gameplan also stick in the mind.Rassie Erasmus had only been head coach for 18 months and told his side to do the basics, including a well-functioning rolling maul, as they lifted the title for a third time.They even used the tactic unusually in open play during the final in Japan.”When you play rugby it’s all about using your opportunity, territory, good defence, good set-piece,” Springboks assistant coach Deon Davids told reporters on Monday.”Over the past few years we said to ourselves that we have to evolve our game.”Mauling will always be a part of the Springboks,” he added, before Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final with hosts France.Erasmus has moved up to the director of rugby role with Jacques Nienaber replacing him as head coach.Their strategy has become more expansive and less dependent on things such as box kicks from scrum-half Faf de Klerk.”I think it’s a good blend that we’ve brought into our game,” De Klerk said.”In 2019 we were basically just mauling, scrummaging and kicking and backing our defence to do the work. “This last year we’ve worked really hard on getting other aspects into our game.”It’s been fun to see how the guys have evolved the skillset,” he added.- ‘Good balance’ -This weekend, Stade de France will be full of blue shirts, with the home side riding a wave of popularity rarely seen throughout the country in recent years.Les Bleus play in front of vocal, expectant supporters and have broken television viewing records since former captain Fabien Galthie took over as head coach in December 2019.”I don’t think the crowd will be silenced, from what we’ve seen so far this World Cup,” Springboks lock RG Snyman said.”The support has been incredible.”We will draw energy from each other and keep our focus tight so we can do our jobs out there,” he added.One major selection headache for Erasmus, Davids and Nienaber to discuss this week will be whether to start livewire Manie Libbok or 2019 World Cup winner Handre Pollard at fly-half.Libbok has been inconsistent with his goal-kicking but has been crucial to the change in mentality on the field.The more conservative Pollard, 29, has played just 50 minutes during the tournament after recovering from a calf issue.”It’s great to have Handre Pollard back. He’s part of the furniture,” De Klerk said. “I think his calm demeanour on the field in big pressure situations is really something that can help us a lot in play-off games. “Then you have Manie, who is playing unbelievably well. His organisation is great and he allows us to score great tries. “There’s a good balance between the two of them. “Anyone of them can get the nod, I’m very fortunate to be able to pass the ball to them,” he added.