Planet Rugby

Preview: France v South Africa

22nd November 2013 06:25

Share:

Preview France South Africa 2013

Stade de France showdown: The battle lines are drawn in Paris

The Springboks face the toughest assignment of their November European tour at the Stade de France on Saturday against a French team with a point to prove.

When they left South Africa at the start of the month most pundits thought that Six Nations champions Wales, with their pride of Lions, would provide the Boks with the stiffest challenge, but the events of the past fortnight have drastically changed that view.

Indeed, France's seven-point loss to New Zealand two weeks ago was the closest anyone has come to beating the All Blacks this year and many - especially the French players on the pitch that night - felt that if it were not for a handful of marginal calls, the result could well have been very different.

Despite France's miserable run of results this year, anyone who witnessed that game would think twice before betting their life savings on the Springboks, who have never beaten les Bleus at this venue.

But, as Heyneke Meyer has sought to remind us, the Boks didn't "come to Paris to do sightseeing."

"We have taken a lot of bogeys off our shoulders this year, such as by winning away games in the Rugby Championships and by winning in Brisbane, and we want to break the losing sequence we have against France in France that extends now to 16 years," said the Bok coach this week.

And it's hard to deny that South Africa have a determined look about them - Wales were beaten inside twenty minutes. Scotland were simply crushed.

There is no secret to the Bok plan, and simple as it is, very few have a hope of standing in their way. Meyer believes "if we play to our ability and get our plan right, it doesn't matter what the opposition bring."

Well, maybe not.

It's true that South Africa have the capacity to steamroller teams and with a pack that outweighs the French by an average of seven kilos per man (117kg v 110kg) don't expect them not to try do what they do best on Saturday.

But as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The last time the Springboks were in France, they were simply outmuscled in Toulouse where a pumped-up French side dominated them at scrum time.

Since taking over at the helm, Meyer has put shoring up the Bok scrum high on his priority list and with the help of former France prop Pieter de Villiers that mission has largely been successful.

The French will nevertheless see the set-piece as an area where they can apply the pressure and Springbok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen will be under the spotlight.

"Around the globe in the last year the French scrum earned the most penalties and conceded the fewest..it will be a scrumming test for us," admitted De Villiers.

While France certainly have the capacity to challenge the South African scrum, it remains to be seen if they have the keys to unlock the Bok defence, which has yet to concede a try on tour.

The hosts are a far less settled and far less experienced unit (the French starting XV has 381 Test caps compared to South Africa's 694) and it will be interesting to see the effect last week's morale-boosting win over Tonga has had on their self belief.

Word from inside the camp is that spirits are high and after a dismal year that has seen them win just twice - against Scotland and Tonga - Philippe Saint-André's team are desperate to prove a point: France are still a force to be reckoned with.

Players to watch:

For France: Back in 2010, Wenceslas Lauret made his Test debut in Cape Town when the touring French were given a hiding. Three years and just three caps later, the Racing Métro flank has returned to the international scene a much stronger, more mature player. Saint-André has emphasised the importance of the first tackle and stopping the big Bok runners early. Having been rested against Tonga after an outstanding performance against New Zealand, the 24-year-old has a very important job to do. Lauret can expect plenty of help from his skipper, Thierry Dusautoir, who will captain France for the 41st time this weekend, one short of the record held by Fabien Pelous.

For South Africa: After all that talk about the Boks' bruisers it's worth noting that South Africa's most potent attacking weapon at the moment is one of the smallest guys in the squad. Willie le Roux provides the deadly counter-attacking sucker punch once the forwards have softened up the opposition with a series of body blows. His addition to the side this year has made the Springboks a very different animal. Quality props are in short supply at the moment and Lourens Adriaanse will make his Test debut if he comes off the bench. It won't take long to find out if he can cut the mustard at this level.

Head-to-head: The midfield battle between Florian Fritz and Jaque Fourie promises to be a cracker. Fritz's abrasive, no holds barred style has earned him the label of "a South African in a blue jersey" in certain quarters of the French press. Beyond putting in big hits (he was France's top tackler against New Zealand) he has a massive boot that could prove useful in the territorial battle. Fourie built a reputation as one of the best centres in the world in his heyday, but has been disappointing since his return this month. Meyer has given the 30-year-old his full backing, playing him for all 80 minutes of both tour games so far - but if the 2007 World Cup-winner doesn't catch up to the pace of Test rugby soon, his goal of playing at the 2015 RWC might be in jeopardy.

Previous results:
2010: South Africa won 42-17 in Cape Town
2009: France won 20-13 in Toulouse
2006: France won 36-26 in Cape Town
2005: France won 26 -20 in Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13 in Port Elizabeth
2005: Draw 30-30 in Durban
2002: France won 30-10 in Marseille
2001: France won 20-10 in Paris
2001: South Africa won 20-15 in Durban
2001: France won 32-23 in Johannesburg

Prediction: Saturday's match will only be the third time these two sides have met at the Stade de France. South Africa lost 20-10 there in 2001 and 26-20 in 2005 and on a cold night at the end of their season, a tough battle awaits. But we reckon the Boks have enough left in a tank for one last big push. South Africa by less than five points.

The teams:

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 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 Sebastien 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 (c), 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 Patrick Lambie.

Date: Saturday, November 23
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 20:00 Local (18:00 GMT)
Weather: 7°C. Cloudy
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Iain Ramage (Scotland)

By Ross Hastie

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411