‘They are not supermen’: France prop plays down threat of South Africa’s forwards

The hosts and defending champions could meet in the quarter-finals of the World Cup

Harry Latham-Coyle
Tuesday 26 September 2023 09:45 BST
<p>South Africa’s possess real forward strength and depth </p>

South Africa’s possess real forward strength and depth

France prop Reda Wardi has played down the threat of South Africa’s forwards, insisting that the Springboks “are not supermen” with the hosts and defending champions set to meet in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

The two sides are seemingly on a last eight collision course after the Springboks’ defeat to Ireland, with France set to top Pool A.

The two sides are among the favourites for tournament victory and have at their disposal probably the world’s two most destructive forward packs.

South Africa utilised a seven forwards to one back bench split against Ireland, but the replacement pack could not force their way over for a winning maul score in the final minute.

And while acknowledging the power that the 2019 winners possess, Wardi believes that Ireland’s win shows that the Springboks can be matched.

“We know they have a huge forward pack,” La Rochelle’s Wardi said. “When they go for a seven-one bench split, you can expect that they want to bring physicality. They are high-level rugby players but not supermen.

“I wasn’t surprised by the South Africans and by the reaction of the Irish. With La Rochelle, we’re used to playing against Leinster, a club with many international players. This team never gives up.

“The South Africans are warriors, as we all know. Both teams showed that they are big nations of the international rugby world.”

While the seven/one split is a new tactic first used by the Springboks in their final warm-up game against New Zealand at Twickenham, a six/two split has been en vogue ever since it helped South Africa to victory four years ago.

Nicknamed the “bomb squad’, the impact of those six forward replacements was key in Japan as Rassie Erasmus’s side secured a third World Cup crown.

France have utilised their own version during this cycle, regularly bringing on an entirely new tight five during their development into tournament favourites.

The versatility of players like Sekou Macalou, Paul Boudehent and Thomas Ramos means that Fabien Galthie can have confidence he has adequate cover at every position - the dynamic Macalou, for example, is usually a flanker but spent 70 minutes of a 30-26 win against South Africa in November last year on the wing.

Sekou Macalou impressed on the wing for France during last year’s win over South Africa

“When you go for a six-two split, you can be more aggressive in the scrums, the lineouts, the mauls,” Wardi explained of the benefits of the bench strategy. “[But] it can be a good idea to have a five-three split to bring some fresh legs and add some pace. I’m not an expert tactician, it’s just how I see things.

“As a front-rower, it’s not a big deal since there’s always a full replacement front row on the bench. The ones who can benefit from it [a six-two split] are the second and back rows.”

France could yet have Antoine Dupont available for quarter-final weekend, with the star scrum half and captain considering wearing a protective mask after suffering a fractured cheekbone in the win over Namibia last week.

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