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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie give Springbok coaches selection headache ahead of tricky Ireland clash

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Damian Willemse did well enough against Romania yesterday, even though it was at flyhalf, to ensure he starts at fullback against Ireland.

It took the Springboks only 11 minutes and 13 seconds to record a bonus point for four tries in their Pool B clash against Romania in Bordeaux yesterday, as they recorded a 76-0 win in their second match of the Cup.

The scoreline ended as many would’ve predicted, with South Africa scoring a mammoth 12 tries and keeping their opponents tryless again.

The defending champions remain the only team to have not conceded a five-pointer in France.

Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and left wing Makazole Mapimpi grabbed hat-tricks, while right wing Grant Williams chipped in with a brace.

A host of tries can probably come into contention for the score of the match, like the one of fullback Damian Willemse after he, with some amazing footwork, stepped through the Romanian defence.

Or the debut try of Williams, when he made a beautiful switch with flank Marco van Staden off the back of a scrum, and sprinted through the defence to go over untouched.

But the honour will probably go to 2019 Cup final try-scorer Mapimpi, who received a pass in his half and sprinted down the touchline, side-stepping the last defender with a quick inside-outside swerve to finish off a scintillating try.

But the Boks won’t necessarily look at the tries they scored, but how well they played as a team in a game that could’ve easily turned into a solo affair where players tried to impress the coaches for a spot to play Ireland on Saturday.

It was not the case, though, and bar for a couple of moments where a player may have made the wrong choice of going on his own, it was a good squad effort to seal the convincing victory.

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Everything started up front, and the way the forwards dominated the scrums and rolling mauls provided the perfect platform from which the Boks could launch attacks.

And that is exactly how it happened.

Thanks to the platform the forwards provided, Reinach could score his hat-trick early on as he threatened to improve the record time he did it in against Canada in 2019.

Bar the loss of prop Vincent Koch in the warm-up before kick-off – he injured his knee – the Boks can look back on this performance with happiness ahead of the Ireland clash.

Yes, they made a mistake here and there, especially when the rain came down late in the first half, but the squad’s overall performance was excellent, and they will take confidence out of the second tryless match at the tournament.

They scored 33 unanswered points in the first half, and another 43 in the second to run away with the game.

Willemse excelled at flyhalf and most likely made a compelling case to be selected for the Irish clash.

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But that will most likely come at the cost of Willie le Roux, who didn’t have the best of outings against Romania.

The fullback made some erratic decisions on attack and dropped a pass when a Romanian defender came storming at him. He kicked attacking possession away as well.

Hopefully, the value of No 8 Duane Vermeulen as a starter came through as well as he showed with a solid performance under the kickoff, in defence and at the breakdown that he will not stand back for the Irish.

Utility forward Deon Fourie also had a good outing as the replacement hooker when he replaced Bongi Mbonambi, and his lineout-throwing was accurate.

He also stole a ball at the breakdown seconds after coming on, while scoring a try off that penalty after the Boks kicked the ball to the corner.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will most probably sit with a couple of selection headaches before announcing his team for Saturday.

It’s a short turnaround for them as they prepare for the Pool B tabletopping clash with the current No 1 side in the world in Marseille on Saturday night (9pm kick-off).

@LeightonK

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