Faf talks down Dupont’s influence in Bok camp

09 October 2023 - 16:54
By Liam Del Carme in Paris
Faf de Klerk during a Springbok training session at Rugby Club Toulonnais Campus in Toulon, France, on October 4.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images Faf de Klerk during a Springbok training session at Rugby Club Toulonnais Campus in Toulon, France, on October 4.

The face of the Rugby World Cup in France may be scarred but the host nation is hoping an indelible mark will be made on this tournament by their captain, Antoine Dupont.

France’s talisman, who suffered a facial fracture against Namibia during the pool stages, has been cleared to resume training this week, which puts him in the frame for selection in Sunday’s quarterfinal against South Africa at Stade de France.

Dupont’s surgeon has had his say and it will be up to the player to determine whether he’s willing to break the heart of a nation.

His likely opposite number, should he decide to play, will be Faf de Klerk, who on Monday talked down the impact the French dynamo might have on the Springboks’ game strategies.

“It’s great for France to have him back. He is a great asset for them,” De Klerk said.

“It doesn’t affect us, whether he plays or not. For me personally, it is always great to play the best in the world. We are preparing to play against France not just against him, though he is a very dangerous player.”

He may be small in stature but Dupont, the World Rugby player of the year in 2021, has a near Napoleonic influence on the French team. He was injured on September 21 against Namibia and missed the game against Italy in which France delivered a performance of real authority, winning 60-7.

Having him return will be a tremendous boost not just to France but the tournament. It has also provided a teasing subplot to the build-up to the game.

The Boks will also keep their opponents guessing by delaying their team announcement until Friday. They will break their well-established routine of naming their squad early in the week by only unveiling it on Friday, just two days before the game.

While the game between the defending champions and the hosts will have this country on the edge of its seat, high-flying Ireland's matchup with New Zealand on Saturday may be equally compelling.

Ireland are the world’s top-ranked team but are yet to win a quarterfinal at the World Cup. They will be required to beat the three-time champions if they are to advance into virgin territory.

In Marseille, in the other half of the draw, Wales will meet Argentina on Saturday, while a day later England will clash with Fiji for the right to advance to the last four at the same ground.

In a dramatic close to the pool stages, Fiji — who have been applauded for the freestyle way they have been conducting themselves on the field — came unstuck against (neutral) crowd favourites Portugal. The team from the Iberian Peninsula impressed with their sense of adventure in earlier matches but they finally got the job done, chalking up their first-ever win at the World Cup.

Portugal won the thriller 24-23 but the bonus point Fiji earned was enough to knock two-time winners Australia out of the tournament. It is the first time Australia have failed to make it to the knockout stages.

Australia still qualified for the 2027 World Cup, but only by virtue of hosting the event. The other teams who qualified for World Cup 2027 are: Argentina, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.

Quarterfinal line-up

  • Saturday
    • Quarterfinal 1: Wales v Argentina, Stade Velodrome, Marseille (5pm)
    • Quarterfinal 2: Ireland v New Zealand, Stade de France, Saint Denis (9pm)
  • Sunday
    • Quarterfinal 3: England v Fiji, Stade Velodrome, Marseille (5pm)
    • Quarterfinal 4: France v South Africa, Stade de France, Saint Denis (9pm)