Preview: South Africa v France

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 06:00

JUNE SPOTLIGHT: Acclaimed rugby365 writer Paul Dobson gives us his take on the third and final test between the Springboks and Les Bleus.

It's seen as a "dead rubber", with the suggestion that such a state of affairs may adversely affect both teams.

The teams protest that they will be giving it their all - the Springboks to develop the momentum of their new-found spirit, the French to save face.

The Springboks' assertion is more credible, for they are Springboks and they must still have the scars and bruises of the humiliation of the recent past.

However, but for the French it is the end of series of tense battles - Six Nations, Top 14, Europe's competitions and then, to end it all, a tour to the land of hard men.

There may well be the lure of the trip home and summer holidays, perhaps down on the Riviera, in Cannes and St Tropez or wherever they go away from the physical exertions of winter to the soothing warmth of self-indulgence.

The prospect could just soften resolve. The spirit may want to be willing, but the flesh's weakness may override that.

For the Springboks, smugness is their greatest danger.

Players to Watch

For France: The French have two young players who may well be destined for greatness - lively scrumhalf Baptiste Serin and willowy centre Damian Penaud. They are also young enough in their international careers to be idealistic and enthusiastic.

For South Africa: There are also newish Springboks who will catch the eye - rugged Jean-Luc du Preez, titan Malcolm Marx and energetic, fearless Andries Coetzee. There is also the speedy potential, as yet largely unused, of wings Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule. And then there is astonishing Siya Kolisi whose performance in the second Test may just have been the best by any flank anywhere this year.As we mention flanks, the whole of South Africa would be happy and expectant to see Jaco Kriel get off the bench and onto the field for his eighth cap. And then there's new cap Ruan Dreyer. He is not in a flashy position but people will love to watch the scrums and have visions of seeing Jefferson Poirot suffering. He will have great company - six Lions teammates with hooker Marx right next to him and captain Warren Whiteley close by to urge him on.

Head to Head: The front rows at the scrums, the centres and the scrumhalves all have their own games/battles within the game. Front row: Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Dreyer vs Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani. The French are older and have more caps, despite Mtawarira's 31 years and 89 caps. Centres: Jesse Kriel and Jan Serfontein vs Damian Penaud and Gaël Fickou. Serfontein was splendid in Durban as was 20-year-old Penaud, son of Alai, a flyhalf who played 36 times for France. If Kriel does not know and understand his place, Penaud could have a field day. As it was, in Durban the French wings had better chances to play than the Springboks wings. In olden times a centre's most important job was to set his wings running. Remember Peter Whipp? Scrumhalves: At 29 Francois Hougaard is six years older than Baptiste Serin and he has 29 caps more than Serin's 12, but Serin's speed and eye for a chance is not to be underestimated and, like many other French scrumhalves, he is a good goal-kicker. Goal-kickers: Here, too, the Springboks seem to be stronger - Elton Jantjies on his home ground vs Baptiste Serin.

Recent results:
2017: South Africa won 37-14, Pretoria
2017: South Africa won 37-15, Durban
2013: South Africa won 19-10, Paris
2010: South Africa won 42-17, Cape Town
2009: France won 20-13, Toulouse
2006: France won 36-26, Cap Town
2005: South Africa and France drew 30-all, Durban
2005: France won 26-20, Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13, Port Elizabeth
2002: France won 30-10, Marseille

Prediction: A lot will depend on the mood they're in, but we believe that the Springboks in Johannesburg will win by 20 points or more.

Teams

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa. 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Vincent Rattez.

Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17.00 (17.00 French time; 15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 15°C and a low of 3°C. It's midwinter on the Highveld.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com