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Nienaber's 'unique' comparison of England and France can be read two ways

By Josh Raisey
South Africa's head coach Jacques Nienaber (R) and South Africa's flanker Siya Kolisi hold a press conference in Presles, north of Paris, on October 19, 2023, ahead of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-final against England. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has said his side “know what’s coming” against England on Saturday in the World Cup semi-final after likening their tactics to France’s.


Nienaber compared the kicking game of both sides this week, describing their style as “unique”. But while he said the Springboks know what’s coming at the Stade de France, the coach also noted it is about executing their game plan on the day.

This comparison can be read two ways. On one hand, there are not many better compliments in the game currently than being likened to France, who were ranked number two in the world last week. Though England have risen to number five in the world after making the semi-finals of the World Cup, the general consensus is that they are still well behind the top four in the world. But Nienaber’s comments show the tactical similarities they have with Les Bleus, although their execution of the tactics may be different.

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On the other hand, comparing your upcoming opponents to the team you beat just a few days ago could actually be a warning to England from the Boks. While it is probably flattering for Steve Borthwick’s side to be held in the same conversation as France, particularly as Fabien Galthie’s side beat them 53-10 at Twickenham this year, Les Bleus did ultimately fall short against the world champions in the quarter-finals. France entered their match against the Springboks as slight favourites, while England enter as heavy underdogs, so this may well be Nienaber serving England a warning.

“Like the French, they have a unique kicking game, they are comfortable not playing with the ball,” Nienaber said after naming his South Africa squad for the semi-final.

“They like to strangle you, kick the ball in your half, apply the pressure and wait for you to make a mistake. From a tactical point of view, we know what’s coming and we just need to make sure we execute on the day.”



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BoerBok 247 days ago

I find it intriguing that the style of play that the “One dimensional” Boks were accused of in the previous Worldcup (kicking game, giving the ball away, then putting pressure on opposition with strong set phases and exploiting mistakes) seems to be the dominant style adopted by a few of the NH teams. Ironically England in particular, and France did this too but added an impressive speed and attacking play .

I see no one complaining? Can we please hand over the “one dimensional” title to England who have really being working hard for this accolade?

Ben 247 days ago

I think this will be pretty close game, England do have good kicking game and very good defensive system. Can’t wait for start. They also have no expectation for win resting on them so can play without pressure. I still think “Boks” may be bit flat after last week’s battle. Hope I’m wrong and the Bok’s come out firing like they did first quarter against France. When do England announce their team (have feeling their props may be asking for sick notes)

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