SIEGE OF PARIS

Boks crave French toast

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page -

A one-off Test is al­ways im­por­tant, but when France and South Africa line up in Paris on Sat­ur­day, win­ning on the night will not be the only item on the agenda.

Both sides will have one eye on the World Cup in Ja­pan, now just 10 months away.

Both coaches, the highly ex­pe­ri­enced Jac­ques Brunel and for­mer Bok flanker Rassie Eras­mus, have come into their jobs in the last 12 months, tak­ing over teams that were strug­gling with iden­tity and re­sults.

Their task is to mould two sides that can chal­lenge the All Blacks in Ja­pan.

Brunel would ap­pear to have the big­ger chal­lenge.

He re­placed Guy Noves last De­cem­ber when France had won just two of his eight Tests in charge.

“We are look­ing for the spine,” said Brunel re­fer­ring to the tra­di­tional rugby back­bone of hooker, No 8, scrumhalves and full­back.

In those five po­si­tions, only the hooker, Guil­hem Guirado, looks a cer­tainty for the World Cup.

“Guirado is the cap­tain so that’s a vote of con­fi­dence,” Brunel said. “We want him to prove that he is im­mov­able in his po­si­tion.”

That means there will be plenty of scru­tiny on the rest of the spine, all of whom are re­turn­ing to the side af­ter time away ei­ther through sus­pen­sion, in­jury or lack of form.

Ex­pe­ri­enced No 8 Louis Pi­camoles re­turns at the back of the scrum, but most eyes will be on the French scrumhalves Bap­tiste Serin and Camille Lopez.

Serin has had a yo-yo year, go­ing from first-choice scrum- half down to No 5 and back into the start­ing lineup, al­beit with Mor­gan Parra, Maxime Machenaud and Bap­tiste Couil­loud all in­jured.

Lopez re­turns af­ter an 18month ab­sence for in­jury.

“For the Spring­boks, ter­ri­tory is all im­por­tant. We think that Maxime has a longer kick­ing game than Ben­jamin. He is one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers we have.”

Ex­pe­ri­ence is also fun­da­men­tal to Eras­mus, who took over the Bok hot-seat in Fe­bru­ary and has al­ready led them to a rare vic­tory in New Zea­land.

Hence his prag­matic de­ci­sion to bring in Wil­lie le Roux at full­back and Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf as soon as they were avail­able ahead of Damian Willemse and Ivan van Zyl.

Lock Franco Mostert comes in for the in­jured Eben Etze­beth.

“It’s good to have the ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers back in the start­ing team for France,” Eras­mus said.

“We are build­ing squad depth for the Rugby World Cup and they [Willemse and Van Zyl] will be back in the mix as the tour pro­gresses.

“The big thing is to build caps and ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore next year’s World Cup.”

South Africa haven’t lost to the French since 2009, but Eras­mus is not tak­ing an­other vic­tory as a given.

“Two years ago, peo­ple would have said that play­ing France was easy, they had a lot of weak­nesses,” he said.

“Since then they have changed coach and there is a pos­i­tive wave.

“It’s go­ing to be a tough one to come out here. Last year the Spring­boks did re­ally well when they ground out a win (18-17). I think it’s go­ing to be very much the same this year.”

France (15-1)

Maxime Medard; Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ge­of­frey Doumay­rou, Damian Pe­naud; Camille Lopez, Bap­tiste Serin; Arthur Itur­ria, Louis Pi­camoles, Wences­las Lau­ret; Yoann Maestri, Se­bastien Va­haamahina; Ce­date Gomes Sa, Guil­hem Guirado (capt), Jef­fer­son Poirot

Re­place­ments: Camille Chat, Danny Priso, Rabah Sli­mani, Paul Gabril­lagues, Mathieu Ba­bil­lot, An­toine Dupont, An­thony Bel­leau, Gael Fickou

South Africa (15-1)

Wil­lie le Roux; Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Al­lende, Aphiwe Dyan­tyi; Han­dre Pol­lard, Faf de Klerk; War­ren White­ley, Duane Ver­meulen, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Pi­eter-Steph du Toit, Frans Mal­herbe, Mal­colm Marx, Steven Kit­shoff

Re­place­ments: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vin­cent Koch, RG Sny­man, Fran­cois Louw, Em­brose Papier, El­ton Jan­tjies, Ch­es­lin Kolbe

RASSIE ERAS­MUS

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