France v South Africa - Three key contests

France v South Africa - Three key contests

The last quarter-final of this scintillating weekend of rugby sees hosts and three-time finalists France - who are aiming for a first semi-final since 2011 - tackle defending champions South Africa, who are trying to emulate New Zealand as the only nation to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, and win a record fourth title.

A long-running saga ended on Friday when it was confirmed France captain Antoine Dupont, the World Rugby Men's Player of the Year in 2021, would be fit to return from the cheekbone injury he suffered in their third pool match against Namibia on 21 September, giving the hosts a huge boost heading into the knockout stages.

South Africa sprang something of a surprise by opting to start with Cobus Reinach at scrum-half over Faf de Klerk, but the 33-year-old Reinach showed in the two pool matches he started that he offers a different threat with his sniping breaks and eye for a try, with a hat-trick against Romania and another against Tonga.

The collisions in this heavyweight encounter are likely to be off the scale, with a meeting of muscle in midfield guaranteed when inside-centres Jonathan Danty and Damian de Allende collide.

Danty missed France's opening two pool matches but has slotted back in seamlessly alongside Gael Fickou on his return to fitness, making hard yards in attack but also coming up with pivotal moments in defence, winning three turnovers.

De Allende was a key figure in South Africa's 2019 RWC triumph and, as one of their main ball-carriers, invariably gets the Springboks over the gainline with his powerful charges. 

There are mouthwatering battles all over the pitch but the back-row contest is likely to be particularly ferocious. Flankers Charles Ollivon and Siya Kolisi are leaders for their sides on both sides of the ball, with Ollivon collecting 15 tries in his 38 tests to date, including two against Namibia in the pool stage. 

Defensively though he is likely to be in the thick of the action on Sunday, as will Springboks captain Kolisi, who along with fellow flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit, tends to make plenty of dominant tackles, often resulting in a turnover of possession for the defending champions.

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