Springboks preparing for titanic scrum battle against France in Rugby World Cup quarter-final

Trevor Nyakane (R) could be just the player the Springboks need at set-piece time against France. Photo: AFP

Trevor Nyakane (R) could be just the player the Springboks need at set-piece time against France. Photo: AFP

Published Oct 9, 2023


The Springboks have highlighted France's set-piece as the main weapon they have to put under pressure come Sunday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Paris if they want to make it through to the semis.

After Ireland triumphed over Scotland this past weekend, the Boks finished second in Pool B, which means a meet-up with the tournament hosts in the capital city (kick-off 9pm) is on the cards.

France is still unbeaten in the tournament after coming through unscathed from Pool A, which included New Zealand and Italy.

The reigning world champions last met France in Marseille at the end of 2022 and it was a narrow win for the hosts so South Africa will have to overturn that defeat in what will be a hostile Paris crowd this time around.

Daan Human, Springbok scrum coach, said they are embracing the challenge of playing the French in front of their fans.

Human, a former Bok and Toulouse prop, knows all too well how passionate a crowd in France can be and the Springboks will be out to silence them from the first whistle.

In the 2022 defeat, the defending champions were reduced to 14 players after a red card to Pieter-Steph du Toit but still fought valiantly to only lose out 30-26. According to Human, both sides have improved since that clash.

France is currently ranked second in the world.

"I think they are better than last year but so are we,” said Human.

“If you train hard, you’ll naturally get better as a team. But just as they believe in themselves, we believe in our players.

"They are strong in every department. That’s why they are the No 2 team in the world.

“They also won all four pool games and did very well against New Zealand, so there isn’t one area one can say they are particularly good at."

One player who will have to help and contain the French setpiece, whether it's in the scrums or line-outs, is versatile prop Trevor Nyakane.

Nyakane and the Springbok scrum head into the play-offs off the back of some good performances in the group stages and will want to continue moving opposition scrums around for valuable momentum.

The Racing92 prop missed out on 2019's triumph after being injured early on in the Japan tournament but he is ready to contribute more as the side looks to defend their title.

"France will certainly have a difficult set-piece to move but we also pride ourselves on our set-pieces and gaining dominance from that. We’ve been working hard on it and there’s a lot more to do but we are looking forward to the challenge.

"It’s a very important facet in the game in France and in the Top 14 competition,” said Nyakane on the set piece.

"They put a lot of emphasis on that area of the game. If you get it right, it’s a beautiful thing and it gives you a mental boost."

Just as important as Nyakane's job will be, so will the one of eighthman Jasper Wiese, should he be selected to start.

He's been putting in some strong performances as a defender and ball carrier for the Boks and should be earmarked for the eight jersey ahead of veteran Duane Vermeulen.

Wiese says they are strapping in for some big forward battles and even bigger collisions.

The Boks have also taken some lessons from the loss last time out.

"They have a very big pack but we’ll be up for it. It’s always a nice challenge going up against a pack like that. (Last year) It was an intense game and we learned a few things from that match.

"We know we need to front up and try to take their momentum away.

“They are big boys and if you let them run hard at you, they’ll do it throughout the match."