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Three years on from their World Cup triumph in Japan, how ready are the Springboks for France 2023?

Three years on from their World Cup triumph in Japan, how ready are the Springboks for France 2023?

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Johannesburg — Exactly three years ago the Springboks demolished England to win the World Cup for the third time, and with a year away from the next tournament in France we ask how ready are they to defend their crown.

We will surely know more in a month’s time after Siya Kolisi has led his players against three of the teams hotly tipped for triumph in Paris next year — Ireland, France, and England — although knowing SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, the Boks will keep some of their powder dry for the battles that really count.

But if you look at the ammunition available to them, there is every reason to believe the Springbok big guns can blast them to World Cup glory once again — the Bok players who did duty in 2019 are almost to a man going to be there again in 2023.

Of the 23-man squad that beat England 32-12 in the final, only Tendai Mtawarira, Francois Louw and RG Snyman are not currently involved with the Boks, with the first two retired and the latter injured, although the door is still open for him to make a comeback.

Six members of the pack that started in that final are starting against Ireland on Saturday and of the two missing, Duane Vermeulen is being rested and Mtawarira is replaced by Steven Kitshoff.

In other words, the Boks’ heavy artillery is very much intact and when it is firing at full tilt, nobody can live with them — the matches that come to mind this year are the All Black game in Nelspruit, the third Test against Wales in Cape Town, and the demolition of the Wallabies in Sydney; while the Boks’ last two Tests — against Argentina — also saw the forwards in fine fettle.

But if the Boks have got the forwards, the question is whether they have evolved their attack sufficiently to be as successful in 2023 as they were in 2019.

Three years ago, the Bok forwards and their backup “Bomb Squad” were sufficient to do the job but there is a strong suspicion that with their opponents so much wiser and prepared for the aerial bombardment and forward onslaught, the Boks need to get the ball into the hands of their dangerous back three more often.

To be fair to Erasmus and coach Jacques Nienaber, they lost 18 months to the Covid-19 pandemic — the Boks were shut down way more heavily than their international rivals — and the first match they played after the November 2, 2019 final was on July 2, 2021, against Georgia, and they had no choice but to revert to type as they were dropped in the deep end against the British & Irish Lions.

The tour the Boks have just embarked on gives them the last opportunity to add a few more arrows to their quiver — next year’s pre-World Cup matches will be about fine-tuning — and the selection of Cheslin Kolbe suggests that Erasmus understands the potential of an attacking fullback bringing out the best in wings such as Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.

Also, it might have been more by accident than design that Damian Willemse is now the starting flyhalf, but if he sets this tour on fire, he surely will stay there next year and that means the Boks will certainly play with more flair.

If you add in the return from long-term injury of fire starter Lukhanyo Am, the Bok backs could certainly have the means to add the icing to the cake the forwards will definitely bake.

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport

Original Article

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