Boks must buck up for French clash – White­ley

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE GREENAWAY

FRANCE have never won a Test match in Dur­ban and Spring­bok cap­tain War­ren White­ley reck­ons that for the sta­tus quo to re­main, his team will have to be sub­stan­tially bet­ter than they were against the French last week, es­pe­cially in the rough and tough “phys­i­cal” stakes.

The Boks have a great chance to start their sea­son with a se­ries win if they beat the French to­day.

Kings Park has witnessed some bru­tal en­coun­ters be­tween the sides at a venue where France have drawn three out of six matches, and come des­per­ately close to win­ning a World Cup semi-final.

They just can’t get over the line with their noses in front at Kings Park, and White­ley’s Boks are their lat­est ob­sta­cle.

It is worth not­ing that it is 22 years to the day that Fran­cois Pien­aar’s Boks splashed across the fin­ish line 19-15 in hor­ren­dous con­di­tions to ad­vance to the World Cup final. That was on June 17, 1995, and the Boks went on to win the World Cup final against New Zealand.

The French will no doubt be want­ing to break their duck in Dur­ban (at least it won’t be rain­ing ac­cord­ing to the weather fore­cast) and they have put out a much stronger side than the one that the Boks beat 37-14 in Pre­to­ria last week. France have made eight changes to their team, in­clud­ing fresh cav­alry in the form of eight top players who were not avail­able for the first Test in Pre­to­ria be­cause of France’s Top 14 final the week be­fore. That is more than half a team.

White­ley said the French would be hurt­ing from the heavy loss at Lof­tus Vers­feld and that the Boks were ex­pect­ing a fe­ro­cious on­slaught from the fired-up French. “They are go­ing to be much im­proved. It will be a bet­ter side and a chal­lenge for us that we are look­ing for­ward to meet­ing,” the Dur­ban­ite said (White­ley is a prod­uct of Glen­wood High School on the Dur­ban Berea).

“We can’t in­flu­ence any­thing other than pre­par­ing our­selves to be stronger for the in­evitable phys­i­cal chal­lenge that will be in­te­gral to their de­sire to equal the se­ries plus win in Dur­ban for the first time,” he added.

“A se­ries win would mean a lot for us but we have not spo­ken about it,” the Bok cap­tain said. “This is an in­di­vid­ual game that has to be won, and it is just about bet­ter­ing our per­for­mance, not fo­cus­ing on his­tory. We can’t take our eye off the ball.”

Whitely said that the Boks had en­joyed a good week in the sunny Dur­ban weather. “Our prepa­ra­tion has been re­ally good. Our in­ten­sity has been great at train­ing be­cause that has been a ma­jor fo­cus for us this year – train­ing as hard as pos­si­ble each ses­sion, lift­ing our ef­fort ev­ery ses­sion,” White­ley said.

He added that the Boks in par­tic­u­lar were an­tic­i­pat­ing an im­prove­ment in the French set pieces.

“We know that they will be stronger in the tight phases,’ White­ley said. “They have got a lot of first-choice players back in the tight five, so we will see where we are af­ter this match. This week we have not been idle in this depart­ment ei­ther.”

It is a home­com­ing of sorts for an­other player, France full­back Scott Sped­ding, who was schooled in Joburg and played a hand­ful of Cur­rie Cup games for the Sharks be­fore pur­su­ing a prof­itable ca­reer in France.

War­ren White­ley

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