France

Meyer dismisses Paris 'sideshows'

Wed, 20 Nov 2013 18:39
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Pieter-Steph will cover blindside flank
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Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is unfazed by South Africa's 16-year drought against Les Bleus on French soil ahead of Saturday's clash in Paris.

The Springboks have not beaten the French in their backyard since the record 52-10 victory in 1997, losing the last four encounters on the trot.

France will certainly fancy their chances against second-ranked South Africa, but the Springboks have fond memories of the Stade de France, the venue of Saturday’s clash.

The Springboks famously clinched their second World Cup crown at the Paris venue after beating England 15-6 in the 2007 World Cup Final - with Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen (who are in the starting XV for Saturday's encounter) and replacement Bakkies Botha all key members of the victorious class of 2007.

Some pundits also believe the outcome of the weekend’s Test will define the Springboks’ season.

Meyer, however, dismissed all these sideshows and said his charges are focused solely on getting the job done.

“It’s a great challenge, but it’s not a make-or-break for the year,” Meyer said on Wednesday.

“This year a lot of youngsters came through and a lot of established players came back. We’re on a 80 percent winning record [for 2013] and got a lot of bogeys off our shoulders - winning in Brisbane where we hadn’t won in 20 years, so we’ve had a great year so far.

“Attacking wise we’ve played some great rugby. We’ve beaten the Six Nations champs four tries to nil and I think we’ve conceded one try in the last five games here [on year-end tours in 2012 and 2013], but this is just another game for us.

“One thing about this team is we don’t play on emotion alone. My mindset, and I’m big on the mindset of the players, is that I don’t care where we play.

"I don’t believe in too many mind games - they’re professional guys and they need to go out there and perform.

“A lot of guys [Euro-based Boks] have played there [Stade de France] and won there, but it’s different playing France. They’re always up for it, they always come with a huge scrummaging onslaught.

“They’re a good mauling team with big forwards and ball carriers. You have to put pressure on them from the word go and that’s what we’re going to try to achieve.”

Meyer said he was particularly impressed with France’s recent performance against the All Blacks in which they pushed the world champions to the limit in a 23-30 defeat, but said they would stick to the formula they implemented at the start of the year in terms of preparation.

“France are a brilliant side, they showed that how they played against the All Blacks; they were probably unlucky not to draw that game, so they’re a really quality side.

“But the thing we’ve really worked on this year is we wanted to make a huge step up in this second year and really focus on how we want to play and there’s a lot of improvement there, especially in the areas we found we weren’t good enough in,” he said.
 
Meyer, who opted for a six-two forwards-backs split on the bench, confirmed that young Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit could find himself on the side of the scrum, where he featured for the IRB Junior World Championship-winning South African Under-20 side, when he comes on in the second half.

“Pieter-Steph will cover blindside flank as well, for Willem [Alberts], and five lock. The great thing with Pieter-Steph is he can play both, even four, so he’s a great guy to have on the bench, specifically with these conditions.

“He can be a great blindside flank. Marcell [Coetzee] has really been playing well but we’ve always been looking for a big blindside flank that can fulfil Willem’s role.

“Because of the way he [Alberts] plays, he always gets a lot of injuries because he puts his body on the line. I believe he [Du Toit] is one of those players who can fill that role,” he said.

Meyer said he has complete faith in Coenie Oosthuizen, a natural loosehead who will start at tighthead in place of the injured Frans Malherbe.

“Scrumming wise the French are up there with the best if not the best and it’s going to be a huge test for him [Oosthuizen]. He really did well last week and every time he’s come on, he’s really improved. I’m very confident that he’ll have a great Test match.

“We know it’s going to be a battle in the scrums. We’re really scrummed well all year, it’s a bit different in the Northern Hemisphere, but I’m very confident that he will do well.”

Meyer added that the mobile Oosthuizen’s main priority will be the scrums.  

“There’s a big difference between an impact player and starting tighthead. He’s been brilliant, especially last week, outside the scrums, but his main role is to give us go-forward and big right shoulders, the rest I see as a bonus,” said Meyer.  

“We have a lot of ball carriers, we have a lot of stealers and our defence has been awesome, so his primary role will be to scrum and he understands it as such but knowing Coenie he’ll always be great outside of scrummaging as well.”

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