5 talking points: France v Springboks

Handre Pollard and Duane Vermeulen (Gallo Images)
Handre Pollard and Duane Vermeulen (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 18-17 win over France in Paris:

1. Pollard rusty to say the least

Handre Pollard started a Test for the first time since the 2015 Rugby World Cup and at times during Saturday’s encounter at the Stade de France he resembled a player that hasn't played much rugby of late.

Pollard missed four kicks at goal - three of them relatively straight-forward - which would surely have proved fatal against more fancied opposition.

Pollard’s decision-making was not always on par and his tactical kicking proved wayward at times.  

It however needs to be stressed that Pollard gave the Springbok backline more direction and he deserves more time to regain his confidence.

The man he replaced, Elton Jantjies, had several chances in 2017 and flattered to deceive.

2. New additions added oomph to Bok cause

After the horror 38-3 defeat to Ireland in Dublin, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was forced to make changes to his line-up.

It’s fair to say that those changes reaped rewards.

Midfielder Francois Venter did not have to do much to be better than Damian de Allende and his work rate was commendable to say the least.

The inclusion of Duane Vermeulen at No 8 added much-needed leadership and his presence should not be underestimated in the team claiming a narrow win.

It also allowed Francois Louw to move back into his more accustomed slot of openside flank and this gave the Bok loose trio more balance.

3. How poor are the French?!

As is the case with South African rugby, the French are also facing some serious challenges.

The current France team must rank as one of the worst in their history and their performance on Saturday was nothing short of appalling.

There aren’t any superstars in the French team and they looked directionless against a Springbok side also low on confidence.

While South Africa’s struggles can be attributed to the out-flux of players to overseas clubs, the opposite rings true for France.

The French Top 14 is one of the strongest domestic competitions in world rugby but it's largely due to the number of overseas stars dominating the tournament.

As is the case with the English Premiership in soccer, it has hurt the national team’s cause.

4. Too little too late for 'Toetie'?

Saturday’s win in Paris was the Springboks’ first win in Europe under the coaching tutelage of Allister Coetzee.

It was also only Coetzee’s second away win overall and may have laid the platform for the Boks to finish their tour on a high.

They should get the better of a hapless Italy and a win against Wales is not out the question, especially seeing the Dragons struggle to subdue Georgia 13-6 this past weekend.

Coetzee will argue that three wins from four on tour signals progress and that he should remain in his position as head coach.

In my view, enough damage has been done for Coetzee to convince his bosses that he should remain at the helm.

There have been too many record losses over the last two years and a 43% win-ratio is simply not acceptable.

The Bok performance in Paris was perhaps more indicative of their current state than the winning result...

5. Why is Rudy Paige under-utilised?

The Springboks are in dire need of a proper game-managing general in the No 9 position.

Ross Cronje’s performance in Paris was better than the Dublin disaster but the Boks badly need spark in this vital position.

Rudy Paige will never be world class but he does play with more speed, energy and vigour than Cronje.

Paige was not used as a substitute on Saturday and questions should be asked why he is utilised so scarcely.

The Springboks may have to wait some time before a suitable replacement for Fourie du Preez is found.

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