Boks must buck up for French clash – Whiteley
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.