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Mack Hansen on playing 'arguably one of the best wingers of all time'

By Ned Lester
Cheslin Kolbe with ball in hand for the Springboks. Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

The Springboks’ infamous physicality poses an immense threat to the world’s No 1 ranked team in this weekend’s potentially decisive Pool B fixture, everywhere but on the wings.

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While the Springbok pack is overflowing with elite size and strength, their back three offer a very different but just as damaging threat through their speed and footwork.

Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-lee Arendse have been named to start in the No 11 and 14 jerseys respectively for the match. The pair combined weigh in at the same total as Tongan prop Ben Tameifuna.

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What the two lack in size they more than make up for in agility. With electric footwork, the duo often make dismantling one-on-one situations look effortless.

The challenge of stopping Kolbe this weekend rests upon the shoulders of Ireland’s Mack Hansen, who is under no illusions of the danger the men opposite him pose.

“Look they’re arguably two of the best wingers in the world,” Hansen told reporters ahead of the match. “Kolbe, arguably one of the best wingers of all time.

“I was lucky enough to have a game against Kolbe in the Autumn and same with Kurt-Lee as well – played against him for the Bulls and whatnot.

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“You can’t really get used to playing these two lads at all but I’ve played them a couple of times which is nice and I have my thing that I try to do before a game to get ready for it and kind of get my mindset ready and the rest will just come down to how I perform.

“That’s all I’m looking at at the moment, not really what they’re going to bring but what I can bring to stopping them.”

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Kolbe scored one of the most famous tries in World Cup history four years ago in Tokyo. Receiving the ball out wide in the 73rd minute, the winger had five sweeping defenders to beat, his pace saw him lose the three forwards in pursuit and a step brushed aside England’s Owen Farrell.

The try cemented the World Cup win for his nation.

Now, the defending champions must build on their recent form and do what no team in the past 15 months has done: beat the Irish.

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Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
4
4
Streak
1
13
Tries Scored
19
29
Points Difference
84
2/5
First Try
4/5
2/5
First Points
4/5
3/5
Race To 10 Points
5/5

There is potential for the clash to be a preview of the World Cup final, and while Ireland have historically not found much success in the knockout stages of the tournament, forwards coach Paul O’Connell says this team has proven to be different.

“We’ve had a Test series decider down in New Zealand, we’ve had a Grand Slam decider, we’ve had a tough autumn series against some very tricky opposition and the boys have always found a way and figured it out,” he said.

“It’s a real strength of theirs.

“They’re going to have to play super well but they’re also going to have to figure things out and it’s something I really enjoy watching them do when they have a challenge in front of them, how they manage to figure it out as a group and they’re going to have to do that at the weekend.”

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J
Jon 2 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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