Boks pre­pare for Top 14 on­slaught

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREENAWAY

THE Spring­boks set­tled into their ho­tel up on the Umh­langa Ridge yes­ter­day and while they were count­ing a miserly cost of just one in­jured player, the French squad down be­low on the beach front were en­joy­ing the pres­ence of seven of their best play­ers from the French Top 14 Fi­nal last week.

The Boks were just about at full-strength last week go­ing into their 37-14 vic­tory over a French team that un­der­whelmed, in that some of their best play­ers could not be con­sid­ered for the first Test in Pre­to­ria last week be­cause they ar­rived too late to be con­sid­ered for se­lec­tion.

This is not to say the Boks are sud­denly un­der­dogs for the sec­ond Test but it does in­di­cate that France will be stronger.

Springbok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee ad­mit­ted as much af­ter declar­ing that his team had been “lucky” in only los­ing cen­tre Jesse Kriel to con­cus­sion. He will be re­placed at 13 by Li­ons cen­tre Lionel Mapoe.

“We are pre­par­ing for a very strong French team that will be boosted by some of their best play­ers,” Coet­zee said. “War­ren White­ley has al­ready said that we lost too many col­li­sions in Pre­to­ria and we know that it is only go­ing to get tougher this week.

“We are pre­par­ing for a bet­ter French team,” Coet­zee con­tin­ued. “We are un­der no il­lu­sions that the French chal­lenge will be even stronger this week, and we have to re­spond ac­cord­ingly.”

Coet­zee said that he would pick a team that was as close as pos­si­ble to the side that won con­vinc­ingly in Pre­to­ria, the ab­sence of Kriel not­with­stand­ing.

“Ob­vi­ously, we want con­ti­nu­ity but un­for­tu­nately Jesse has been ruled out of the match be­cause of con­cus­sion, and that means we have to relook our mid­field,” Coet­zee said. “There are many who will feel this is a good op­por­tu­nity to bring Frans Steyn back into the start­ing line-up at 12, with Jan Ser­fontein mov­ing to 13, but I feel this would mean we end up mak­ing two changes in the mid­field, when we only have to make one.

“Ser­fontein had an ex­cel­lent game at 12, I feel he was out­stand­ing, and I want to keep him in his nat­u­ral po­si­tion. It was the type of per­for­mance from him that we have been hop­ing for be­cause he is no longer a young­ster, and in this game he put up his hand and showed that he is com­ing through as a se­nior.

“In terms of out­side cen­tre, it makes sense to bring in Mapoe, who is fully re­cov­ered from in­jury and rar­ing to go.”

Coet­zee said that Damian de Al­lende was still strug­gling with in­jury and would be sent back to the Storm­ers to un­dergo re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Coet­zee ad­mit­ted that his back three had been un­der pres­sure go­ing into the first Test, given that they were col­lec­tively small in stature com­pared to the top in­ter­na­tional teams.

“I know there were ques­tions asked of them go­ing into the Test but how pleas­ing was it to see that they an­swered those ques­tions with courage and at­ti­tude? You can’t coach those things, and I found the per­for­mance of the back three ex­tremely pleas­ing,” Coet­zee said.

“The French will be bet­ter in Dur­ban, but so will we. They are go­ing to come at us with their full­strength side but we will stick to our pro­cesses and ‘up’ our fo­cus on pa­tience on at­tack, be­cause we feel we were en­thu­si­as­tic at times and rushed passes that could have re­sulted in tries. But these are prob­lems that are elim­i­nated with com­po­sure and this is what we are hop­ing for this week.”

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