Preview: France v South Africa
NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT: The Springboks are in France and play Les Bleus before over 80 000 people at Stade de France in the northern Paris suburb of St Denis, the patron saint of Paris.
It will be the 44th match between the two countries, both probably lower on World Rugby rankings than they would normally be.
At present South Africa are ranked fifth, France eighth.
South Africa are between England and Australia, France between Scotland and Argentina.
Year So Far
South Africa, playing in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and England have, at least numerically, a better season than France – who have played in Scotland, Wales and New Zealand.
Out of 11 matches South Africa won five and lost six; out of eight matches France won two and lost six.
Results against Common Opponents
England: France won 22-16; South Africa won 42-39 & 23-12 and lost 10-25 and 9-11
New Zealand: France lost 11-52, 13-26 & 15-49; South Africa won 36-34 and lost 30-32
France better against England; South Africa better against New Zealand.
How will they play?
Will France play with flair? No.
Will there be a forward battle? Yes.
Will South Africa improve on last week’s performance? It would be hard not to.
Where will they improve? One would expect their line-outs to be better, their handling to be more secure, retaining possession better, and improved kicking – less and better.
South Africa could be more cohesive than France. France played three matches in June. South Africa played four times in June, twice in August, three in September, one in October and one last week.
France has not played since June 23, except against each other in the Top 14, while South Africa have played seven times since then.
Players to Watch
For France: Teddy Thomas above all, a strong, fast wing with a swerve and footwork. He scores tries. Fullback Maxime Médard is fast, mature (31) and experienced (50 caps) but beyond that, he has vision and verve. And you will see Mathieu Bastareaud and Louis Picamoles, though perhaps not with as much energy as of yore. And then there is Gaël Fickou, a clever, attacking player, surprisingly on the bench and not starting. Yoann Maestri will be prominent amongst the forwards.
For South Africa: The speedsters on the wing, Sibusiso Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi, but they would prefer players inside them to create opportunities for them to use their speed and skills, and not abandon them to catching high kicks. And you will see Francois de Klerk who is now by some way the pick of South African scrumhalves but it’s more than that. It is the lively, fearless character he brings to the game, whether spinning the ball on a finger, the charm of his smile or tackling a big man – and all others are bigger than the imp. In the pack, one would expect better performances from the likes of Malcolm Marx and Duane Vermeulen, players who can bring so much force and drive to any pack.
Head to Head: Front Row versus Front Row. South Africa has four strong props and two strong hookers. Even without Wilco Louw, they are capable of giving any other country’s front row a tough time, and the starting French props Cedate Gomes Sa from Guinea-Bissau and Jefferson Poirot are not experienced, nor is Cameroonian Dany Priso of the bench. Rabah Slimani may be on early. (It is interesting that all four of the French props have connections with Africa.) Scrumhalf versus Scrumhalf. Both Baptiste Serin and Faf de Klerk are likely players with great skills of their own. Delivery, to them and by them, may be of utmost importance. Louis Picamoles versus Duane Vermeulen. They may be in slightly different positions at scrum time, but they are both similar in their forcefulness and they will know each other’s game from Top 14 contact. Line-outs: Guilhem Guirado versus Malcolm Marx at the throw-in will set the line-outs going. Marx has the advantage of having Lions teammate Franco Mostert back along with teammate Warren Whitely at the back, though it may have been the attempt to find Whiteley that led to the poor line-outs last weekend against England. Geoffrey Doumayrou versus Damien de Allende – cleverness against force – and against England it was De Allende’s force that made him so effective. The contest between Teddy Thomas and Aphiwe Dyantyi could be a good one. Goal-kicking: Camille Lopez may be just that much more consistent than Handré Pollard.
Of the 43 matches between France and South Africa, South Africa have won 26, France 11. Six matches have been drawn.
South Africa have won the last six, but there is some confidence about that under newish coach Jacques Brunel, things are better. Two out of eight – 25 percent – is not a vast improvement!
2017: South Africa won 18-17, Paris
2017: South Africa won 35-12, Johannesburg
2017: South Africa won 37-15, Durban
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 won 27-13, Port Elizabeth
Prediction: All of that may be interesting but it will have little bearing on what happens when Nigel Owens blows the first whistle after the anthems. It does not take much to change outcomes – a bounce of a ball as at Ellis Park when New Zealand played there, an overthrown line-out five metres from the line as happened last week, a narrowly missed kick at goal. Going to be a spectacle? Not likely on a cold, damp night, after a long edgy day for the players.
Unpredictability is one of sport’s virtues. There are no certainties, but all things considered we’d back South Africa to win by eight to 10 points.
France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Damian Penaud, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poi rot.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Gaël Fickou.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Date: Saturday, 10 November 2018
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (22.00 SA time, 20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Sun in patches, rain in patches and high of only 13°C and a low of 10°C. Not great for a night game.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Tom Foley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
By Paul Dobson