Preview: South Africa v France

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 07:53

IN THE JUNE SPOTLIGHT: At least the Springboks should go into this Test without fear of being disgraced. Paul Dobson looks at the second Test between South Africa and France.

After the first-Test victory, relieved Allister Coetzee announced that the Springboks could now put the horrors of 2016 behind them.

That door was closed.

They will hope that that will not translate itself into complacency, which has ever been the Springboks' primrose path to defeat.

It happened even in the great days of Springbok rugby - the first Test in New Zealand in 1937, the third Test against the British and Irish Lions in 1938, France in 1958 and above all in 1984.

On one Saturday that year, they beat the Jaguars 50-18 in Pretoria and the next Saturday they lost to them 12-21 down the road in Bloemfontein.

Underdog is a more profitable starting position for the Springboks. But after their Pretoria victory, the Springboks will be favourites.

Even against the bolstered French, they will be favourites.

The Springboks made only one change to their team and that was forced on them by Jesse Kriel's concussion.

France changed eight and brought in the players who had played in the final of the Top 14. There are changes at fullback, a  outside centre (uncapped) and halfbacks and a further four in the pack - a loose forward, a lock, a prop and a hooker. The spine of the team looks stronger - hooker down through No.8 and halfbacks to fullback.

The uncapped outside centre is Damian Penaud, the 20-year-old son of Alain Penaud, who played for France in the 1990s.

One thing is sure - this French side will not stand back. Their coach has said, more than once, that the Springboks were too physical and athletic for them.

Expect a fightback - fire meeting fire, physical against physical. One just hopes that this potentially great conflict stays within the laws of the Game and its spirit - no repeat of 1961 and 1975.

Guy Novès is bound to have a plan.

The Springboks will surely not go planless into the fight.

If last week's win translates itself into confidence, they could produce an even better performance this week.

There we have it - the Springboks looking up, an intriguing match and excellent winter weather. Let's hope there will be more people than the 30 000 who inhabited Loftus Versfeld last week.

Players to Watch

For South Africa: Amongst the Springboks to watch are adventurous fullback Andries Coetzee, flyhalf Elton Jantjies who was splendid in skill and judgement in the first Test, and in the pack muscular Malcolm Marx with the surprising turn of speed and action man Franco Mostert. And all the rest.

For France: Scott Spedding of France via Krugersdorp and Johannesburg  is an exciting player of almost reckless courage. Watch the Top 14 and there is always a frisson of excitement in the crowd when the ball is kicked down on him, as his first option is to run with speed and power. Strong Virimi Vakatawa on the left wing and lively scrumhalf Baptiste Serin are both worth watching.

Head to Head: Front row versus front row - Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe against Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado and Jefferson Poirot. The Springboks had it fairly easy against relative novices last week. This week they are against smaller but much more experienced men. That could be an interesting battle. That is right up front. There will again be an interesting competition between those furthest back - rapier against broadsword, Andries Coetzee's against Scott Spedding, both seeking to set their sides attacking. If the ball gets to the wings in these days when centres play like wings of old, there is again an interesting match-up between strong, experienced Yoann Huget and will-o-the-wisp novice Courtnall Skosan. And all in all it will be Physicality versus Physicality. Will there be a team that wins that battle and forces the other onto the back foot? Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and Yoann Maestri are likely to be prominent in this collision.

Recent results:
2017: South Africa won 37-14, Pretoria
2013: South Africa won 19-10, Paris
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 and France drew 30-all, Durban
2005: South Africa won 27-13, Port Elizabeth
2002: France won 30-10, Marseille
2001: South Africa won 20-15, Durban

Prediction: If South Africa really have their feet in the ground, heads of usual size and location - neither swollen nor in the clouds - then the Springboks to win by 10 or more.

South Africa:
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Francois Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Yoann Maestri (captain), 4  Romain Taofifenua, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Julien le Devedec, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Nans  

Date: Saturday, 17 June 2017
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17.00 (17.00 French time; 15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Sunny with a high of 25°C and a low of 13°C - great winter's weather
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees:  Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

By Paul Dobson