There’s a fresh version of Springbok scrumhalf legend Fourie du Preez on the brew ... but he could pose a threat to South Africa, the World Cup champions, down the line.
That is the view of SA-born French national team kick specialist Vlok Cilliers, recently back from his first extended stint with Les Bleus in the eventually curtailed Six Nations, on their emerging young No 9 Antoine Dupont.
Cilliers, a dual Springbok and former SA Sevens player, has been contracted to the French team right up to the next World Cup - to be held on their soil in 2023.
The former Western Province stalwart worked closely with Dupont, 23, during France’s successful 2020 Six Nations, in which they were lying joint-top on points with England (after four matches each) up to the coronavirus-related shutdown of the competition.
At least one British newspaper, The Guardian, named Dupont their player of the tournament ahead of the cut, saying that he revelled in the French side’s “more disciplined and structured approach” under head coach Fabien Galthie, who played with Cilliers for WP in the mid-1990s.
Former Bulls idol Du Preez, an RWC winner in 2007 and decorated in many other ways during a 76-cap Bok career between 2004 and 2015, was renowned as one of the most complete scrumhalves in world rugby.
But while Toulouse-based Dupont’s earliest career has been marked primarily by his sniping and darting relish, Cilliers says his tactical-kicking game - something Du Preez was an indisputable ace at - is blossoming, to give him improved status as a “general” in his key berth.
“He has a massive boot on him, he actually reminds me more and more of Fourie ... a strong and intelligent kicker,” Cilliers told Sport24 in Stellenbosch this week.
“So if we wanted distance during the Six Nations, we went distance from nine; from ten we could go with contestable, attacking kicks … Romain Ntamack (another fresh-faced emerging force at flyhalf - Sport24) is good with that side of things.
“We tried to spread out the task, so as not to make things too predictable and it seemed to work for us.”
Cilliers says the French team are “enormously excited” about the confirmed prospect - provided that the global pandemic has been reined in by then - of locking horns with the Webb Ellis Cup holders at year’s end.
It will be the Boks’ third of a probable four end-of-year tour fixtures, in Paris on November 21, after anticipated earlier meetings with Italy and Ireland, and ahead of a closing tussle against Wales in Cardiff.
Dupont has previously been involved in three Tests against the Boks, though just one as a starter … and not against the Boks’ frontline scrumhalf at RWC 2019, Faf de Klerk.
His direct opponent was Lions stalwart Ross Cronje when South Africa, in the dying stage of Allister Coetzee’s coaching tenure, edged out Les Bleus 18-17 at Stade de France in November 2017.
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