Paris derby as Racing 92 awaits start of 'superb' Kolisi era
PREVIEW: Two in-form French sides meet in the Top 14 on Saturday as leaders Stade Francais host Racing 92, although South Africa’s two-time World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi is not expected to make his debut for another week.
Flank Kolisi arrived in Paris earlier this month but the emblematic Springboks skipper is eyeing next Sunday’s home game with La Rochelle for his Racing debut.
The 32-year-old has spent a few days on holiday in the United States with his family and is expected to return to the French capital next week in time for the La Rochelle match.
One of Kolisi’s teammates at Racing will be France lock Cameron Woki, who was on the losing side against South Africa in the World Cup quarterfinal a month ago.
“We spoke last week, but not especially about the quarterfinal. Siya knows that it hurts,” Woki told AFP in an interview this week.
“I’m very happy to be able to play with a player like him. [He is] a leader, a superb man who can teach me a lot,” the 25-year-old added.
Woki, born and raised in a tough northern Parisian suburb, featured in all of Les Bleus’ games at the World Cup including the agonising one-point defeat to the Springboks in the last eight.
“I worked a lot to play at the World Cup,” Woki said.
“So ending it at the quarterfinals, it was painful. For everyone.
“I had a break, I went to Crete with my partner, which allowed me to recover mentally,” he added.
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Two weeks ago Woki returned to duty at the club where former England head coach Stuart Lancaster is now at the helm.
The rangy loose forward started last Sunday’s away defeat to Toulon, where England winger Henry Arundell scored a hat-trick on his Racing bow in a perfect start to his one-year contract.
This Saturday, Racing can move above their local rivals with a win at Stade Jean-Bouin, based in Paris’ wealthy 16th arrondissement.
“He’s like a scooter. He runs quickly,” Woki said. “He’s very professional. The English are like that.
“Playing with players of that quality is good for the club. I hope he can stay here for a long time,” the 27-time France international added.
Elsewhere in a weekend filled with derbies, surprise package Pau, second in the table after six rounds, head to fellow southwest side Bayonne backed by in-form English fly-half Sam Simmonds and ex-Australia full-back Jack Maddocks.
Simmonds and Maddocks will be joined in the squad, led by former France under-20s head coach Sebastien Piqueronies, by former New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock in the coming weeks.
Champions Toulouse travel to Castres and struggling Montpellier, league winners in 2022, make the trip to the only side below them in the table Perpignan.