Preview: France v South Africa
Stade de France is not a happy hunting ground for the Springboks this century. Paul Dobson previews the Test between France and South Africa.
Stade de France is not a happy hunting ground for the Springboks this century.
In fact France has not been a happy hunting ground this century, and the French regard the Springboks, as they do the All Blacks, as a benchmark.
They will be sure to lift their game, as they did against the All Blacks a couple of weeks ago, and their sketchy performance against Tonga will have no bearing.
Nor will the present IRB ranking which has South Africa second and France fifth.
This will be a stern test for the Springboks at the end of a Super Rugby-Currie Cup-12 Test year.
It has been a good year with just two defeats - both against New Zealand.
France have played 10 Tests and won just two. They drew with Ireland, lost to New Zealand (four times), England, Wales and Italy.
It has not been a great year for France and yet their last Test against New Zealand, when they lost by seven points, was probably their best.
They were clearly up for the game.
The players chosen to face the Springboks are in essence the team that gave the All Blacks a tough ride and are likely to be up for the game again this Saturday.
That it is a Saturday game may well be a bit tough for the tough Springboks, who played on Sunday and so have a shortened week.
They have also lost Frans Malherbe, a tighthead, a position where they are not strong.
France will doubtlessly target the scrums. They had the better of the New Zealand scrums in a match in which there were seven scrum penalties, five in favour of France.
In the two matches between the Springboks and the All Blacks this year, the scrums were not an issue but then they were played on good playing surfaces.
Mind you, Stade de France has looked in excellent shape.
An interesting facet of the scrumming is that one of France's most famous scrummagers, the South African Pieter de Villiers, is now the Springboks' scrumming coach.
The cold weather and a night match to make it even colder may well set the Springboks yearning for the sunshine and relaxation of home.
Will Heyneke Mayer rouse them for one last hoorah?
And then will Philippe Saint-André get the French up?
Both teams are likely to be determined and it is likely to be another match of harsh physical contact, especially in the opening quarter when the team that gets on top there may well go on to a comfortable victory.
Players to Watch:
For France: While lots of slugging-it-out happens, the player likely to produce flair is fullback Brice Dulin. In the centres Wesley Fofana, the Parisian with some ancestors from Mali, is one of the most exciting players in the world, strong, fast and skilful. He is a handful. Thierry Dusautoir, the calm French captain, gets through a mountain of work in every match.
For South Africa: Just as in the French team the player most likely to produce flair is fullback Willie le Roux. Bryan Habana always produces a frisson of excitement when he gets the ball and starts instant speeding. Willem Alberts tackles and runs with immense power and has an impact on the game and Bismarck du Plessis, much more than just a hooker, is one of rugby's strong personalities at present. You are always aware of him.
Head to Head: There are units in opposition here that will be interesting. Back Three versus Back Three - enterprising Brice Dulin, Sofiane Guitoune and strong running Yoann Huguet versus enterprising Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana and strong running JP Pietersen. There could just be exciting outbursts of counterattack. Loose Trio versus Loose Trio - tough, hardworking Thierry Dusautoir, Damien Chouly and Wenceslas Lauret versus hard, relentless Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw. If it came to sheer physicality, you would probably back the Boks. Front Row versus Front Row - Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser and Yannick Forestier versus Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira. This could be crucial for team morale and in getting loose forwards away quickly. Line-out versus Line-out - Pascal Papé, Yoann Maestri and Damian Chouly versus Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe and Duane Vermeulen. The Springboks are more likely to contest the opponents' throw and the French are more likely to take quick throw-ins, though quick throw-ins have been few in number this month. Goal-kicker versus Goal-kicker: Morgan Parra versus Morné Steyn, both reliable. Back-ups: Rémi Talès versus Patrick Lambie with Talès more likely to be successful, and yet..... Then there is Wesley Fofana versus Jean de Villiers - direct attack versus clever opportunism.
2010: South Africa won 42-17, Cape Town
2009: France won 20-13, Toulouse
2006: France won 36-26, Cape Town
2005: France won 26-20, Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13, Port Elizabeth
2005: France and South Africa drew 30-30, Durban
2002: France won 30-10, Marseilles
2001: France won 20-10, Paris
2001: South Africa won 20-15, Durban
2001: France won 32-23, Johannesburg
Prediction: History and the state of the month's play perhaps suggest that France will win it by about five points. Get a good start and the Springboks could win it by 10 points or more. The latter is more likely.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yoann Huguet, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts , 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Siya Kolisi, 22 Jano Vermaak, 23 Pat Lambie.
Date: Saturday, 23 November 23
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 22.00 SA time)
Expected weather: Cold. Overcast with a high of 5°C, dropping to 3°C
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)
By Paul Dobson