PREVIEW: SOUTH AFRICA A V FRENCH BARBARIANS
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Orlando Stadium in Soweto, home of Orlando Pirates soccer club, is set to host a rugby spectacle as South Africa 'A' do battle against the French Barbarians on Friday.
South Africa 'A' outscored the French Barbarians by six tries to four en route to a 36-28 victory in a historic first ever rugby match played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban last week and this week the two teams will again be making history as they will be playing their first ever game at the Orlando Stadium.
The big talking points heading into this clash for the South Africa 'A' team are the 13 changes to the starting team and the return of Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard - who starts on the bench, after being sidelined for two months with an ankle injury which he sustained while playing Super Rugby for the Bulls in April.
South Africa 'A' have a new skipper, as inside centre Francois Venter takes over the captaincy from Juan de Jongh.
Venter will have a new midfield partner in Lionel Mapoe, who has been selected at outside centre after being released from the Springboks this week.
Speaking to reporters during the week, South Africa 'A' head coach Johan Ackermann said that he was happy to give the entire squad game time, especially after seeing every player's level of commitment and effort on and off the field.
"I do believe everybody goes through a sacrifice, it's a time where they [the players] away from home and therefore to me it's all just fair that every guy in the squad gets an opportunity to play," explained Ackermann.
Ackermann added that Pollard will be given at least twenty minutes of game time in order to assess his fitness levels and match sharpness.
"I think the whole idea from [Springbok coach] Allister [Coetzee] and from SA Rugby's side, we want to see where Handré is, how sharp he is since his been injured.
"I don't think it's about the amount of time, it's just getting him back on the field and testing him against international opposition, but I also want to be fair to him, I can't see him get much less than 20 minutes," Ackermann said.
Meanwhile the French Barbarians have also made wholesale changes to their match day squad.
Frédéric Michalak will once again lead the team but will be lining up alongside new faces in the backline. There is a change in the centre partnership as Lucas Dupont and Arnaud Mignardi takes over from Jonathan Danty and Jean-Baptiste Dubié - the latter moving to the bench.
Further back, Louis Dupichot moves from fullback to wing, with Gabriel Lacroix missing the match. Julien Dumora takes the vacant fullback spot while Fabrice Estebanez replaces Arthur Bonneval on the other wing.
Michalak continues his partnership with scrumhalf Yann Lesgourgues, while No.8 Marco Tauleigne, lock Alexandre Flanquart and prop Khatchik Vartanov are the only ones to retain their spots in the pack.
Players to watch:
For South Africa A: Sevens World Series champion Seabelo Senatla has the pace and footwork to trouble any defence in the world, while No.8 Andisa Ntsila is renowned for his link up play between forwards and backs and his strong skill set. Loosehead Prop Retshegofaditswe Nché will be looking to take the ball into contact and run over his would be tacklers.
For the French Barbarians: Flyhalf and captain Frédéric Michalak will be key to the French Barbarians. The former Sharks player has plenty of experience playing against South African opposition and he is the type of player who is able to run from deep and put boot to ball for a tactical game. Hooker Anthony Etrillard will be looking to take the game to the opposition with his physicality in the tackle.
Head to head: The SA A loose trio of Andisa Ntsila (No.8), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (flank) and Chris Cloete (flank) should provide plenty of skill and physicality at the breakdown as they go up against the versatile Marco Tauleigne (No.8), Antoine Erbani (flank) and Romain Sazy (flank).
2017: South Africa 'A' won 38-26, Durban
Prediction: Both teams have made plenty of changes to their match day squad and word coming out from both camps is that they would like to entertain the crowd. Expect plenty of big hits, offloads, well timed tackles and plenty of try's! South Africa 'A' are the more confident team heading into this clash and they should win this one by 15-20 points.
South Africa A: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Francois Venter (captain), 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Uzair Cassiem, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Juan de Jongh.
French Barbarians: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Lucas Dupont, 12 Arnaud Mignardi, 11 Fabrice Estebanez, 10 Frédéric Michalak (captain), 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Replacements: 16 Rémi Bonfils, 17 Malik Hamadache, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Arnaud Mela, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Jean-Baptiste Dubié.
Date: Friday, June 23
Venue: Orlando Stadium, Soweto
Kick-off: 20.00 (20.00 French time; 18.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Clear skies with a high of 19 degrees and a low of two degrees.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Lesego Legoete, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Johan Greeff
By Josh Isaacson