Coet­zee happy not to make many changes to his start­ing line-up

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - DAR­RYN POLLOCK

HAV­ING never won a game in Dur­ban, in six at­tempts with three draws within that, France are ready to throw ev­ery­thing into the siege of Kings Park to­day (kick­off 5pm) while the Boks are look­ing for in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments from last week’s pos­i­tive show­ing.

It is per­haps a bit apt that the French Bar­bar­ians are in town at the same time as the na­tional team for the feel­ing around Dur­ban is that Les Bleus are here for an almighty bat­tle. This horde of proud French­men are pre­par­ing them­selves for a huge sec­ond wave at­tack af­ter the em­bar­rass­ment of Lof­tus. And for the Boks? It is sim­ply about im­prov­ing their game.

For the first time in a long time, coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee was able to smile at the end of a Spring­bok per­for­mance. It was not the com­plete per­for­mance, and there was plenty to work on, but it was good enough to beat an un­der­cooked French side and set a stake in the ground.

This week the threat will be big­ger, and the game tougher, so Coet­zee has called for more of the same, with lit­tle im­prove­ments all round. With the French ral­ly­ing their cav­alry – the re­in­force­ments from Cler­mont and Toulon – shak­ing off the last bit of rust, and lick­ing their wounds, Coet­zee has turned a blind eye to the snarling Tri­col­ore beast at the gates, look­ing to­wards his own camp in­stead.

“The French would not have been happy with their per­for­mance,” Coet­zee com­mented. “But to be hon­est, the fo­cus is on what we want to do and our process. “We are off to a good start and we want to con­tinue, ir­re­spec­tive of who comes in and who is not play­ing for them. We know we need to im­prove, and we want to get it right. In Test match rugby, you will be tested and it won’t get eas­ier.”

France have made eight changes, which is be­ing viewed as a mas­sive strength­en­ing of many ar­eas of their game. Mean­while, the Spring­boks have made just the one in­jury en­forced change that Coet­zee be­lieves makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence to their start­ing line-up’s abil- ex­hi­bi­tion game there, in ev­ery sense of the word.

It was ap­pro­pri­ate that the first game of rugby at the iconic Moses Mab­hida sta­dium saw plenty of tries, as the South Africa ‘A’ side downed the flair-filled Bar­bar­ians 36-28.

It was a game for the in­di­vid­u­als in the SA A team to try to shine, and there were a few that must have caught the eye ity.

Lionel Mapoe comes in for the con­cussed Jesse Kriel to part­ner Jan Ser­fontein, with Coet­zee happy with a like-for­like swop rather shuf­fling of the mid­field to ac­com­mo­date some­one like Frans Steyn.

“It was an easy se­lec­tion for me this week,” Coet­zee ex­plained. “The team per­formed well and we were happy with com­bi­na­tions, so with the in­jury, it was a no brainer to bring Lionel in as the only of coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee, but on the night, the win would still have tasted sweet.

With very lit­tle on the line for the SA ‘A’ side, and even less for the French Bar­bar­ians, the mantra for the evening un­der the Moses Mab­hida arch was to en­ter­tain, and it was the vis­i­tors who were first into their work.

Some slick han­dling, and a en­forced change at 13. The hope is that they too will com­bine well in the end.”

With the French bol­stered by some pretty hefty for­wards, as well as a new and ex­cit­ing half back pair­ing, the aim for the Boks will be to try and nul­lify the mo­men­tum of the en­raged Les Bleus. Should the Boks have the phys­i­cal as­cen­dency, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the tries will flow.

“We want to stop the mo­men­tum of the French this few au­da­cious off­loads in the first cou­ple of min­utes saw the Bar­bar­ians on the SA ‘A’ side’s line, only for the scrumhalf Yann Les­gour­gues to sneak the ball over the line from inches out. Sharks old boy Fred Micha­lak added the ex­tras.

The SA ‘A’ side soon saw what was re­quired in this ex­hi­bi­tion game as speedy Lwazi Mvovo got their first try. week with our de­fence,” Coet­zee went on. “We know they have a big phys­i­cal team, and if they are not pick­ing and go­ing through Louis Pi­camole they will be charg­ing off No 9 with their big wing Vermi Vakatawa, and their cen­tres.

“If you get on the front foot it be­comes easy to play the game, you get to have width, and get the space.”

So, other than try­ing to si­lence the French, Coet­zee has also pointed out a few key ar­eas that will be ‘work-ons’ in only the sec­ond game of the year.

“We will also hope to main­tain the good things from Lof­tus; the set piece. We can be sure that France will come out and im­prove their scrum, so we have to be neat and tidy there. Our line-out could be bet­ter, we have done a lot of work on it this week. We also made a few other er­rors and we want to cut those down too, but we can im­prove in all de­part­ments in the game.

“I don’t want to see less in­ten­sity and less ef­fort though,” he con­cluded.

Mvovo got his brace late on in the match to make the re­sult se­cure with Fred Zelinger putting over the con­ver­sion.

SOLE MAN: Lionel Mapoe is the soli­tary change in to­day’s Spring­bok start­ing XV.

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