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New theory emerges over Springboks' mindset heading into Ireland clash

By Josh Raisey
Ireland assistant coach Mike Catt, left, and South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, centre, and South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber before the 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France in Paris, France. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

As soon as Antoine Dupont’s participation in the World Cup quarter-finals was thrown into doubt after fracturing his cheekbone, suggestions that playing a Dupont-less France would be more desirable than playing the All Blacks in the last eight were inevitable.


France are on course to top Pool A after beating the All Blacks in the opening match of the tournament, but the scrum-half’s injury two days before Ireland and South Africa faced each other left fans from both nations to discuss the merits of winning or coming second in Pool B and therefore facing France or the All Blacks.

Even after Ireland and South Africa went hammer and tongs for 80 minutes at the Stade de France on Saturday, some have questioned the Springboks’ mentality in their 13-8 loss to the world number ones. Owner of the Hollywoodbets Sharks Marco Masotti has even suggested that the world champions approached this meeting in Paris as if it were a “practice game”.

Masotti listed the 7-1 split on the bench as an example of Jacques Nienaber’s and Rassie Erasmus’ “out of the box thinking”, which is valid. He also cited the traffic light system deployed by Erasmus as another reason for their experimental mindset, which is perhaps slightly harder to grasp.

The volume of fans that agree with his comments online clearly shows that he is not alone in this view. Fans have added with theories of their own as well as to how South Africa might have been holding something back, such as their kicking decisions throughout the match- chiefly the decision for Faf de Klerk to take a 50 metre+ penalty rather than to kick for the corner.

Masotti wrote on X: “I am not even sure what to make of the game. It felt like a practice game to me. I know I would rather have a coaching team with lights, 7/1 splits and out of the box thinking. The Springboks are taking the game forward in world rugby.”

Few would argue that the Springboks held anything back in terms of their physical intensity against Ireland, or at least if there are those that hold that view, may God have mercy on the souls of the side that bear the brunt of the Boks at full intensity. It was clear to see that both sides gave everything in what was the most brutal match of the World Cup so far. So while there are no question marks over the Boks’ physical approach to the match, there are questions over their decision-making both before and during the match and whether the same decisions would be made once the knockout stages arrive.


Even if the theory that playing France without their talisman in the quarter-finals might be easier than the All Blacks holds water, it might be moot anyway following the news that Les Bleus’ captain could make a shock return for that match. On top of that, it is hard to believe that the Springboks would contrive a way to avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals after subjecting them to a record defeat in both sides’ final match before the World Cup. Then again, Erasmus has developed a reputation for being an innovator and pushing the envelope during his time with South Africa, so theories like this are to be expected.



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