June Internationals: South Africa v France First Test Preview


Shaun Goosen runs the rule over the Springboks first assignment of the year; A clash with the French.

Despite going into this first Test as favourites, Allister Coetzee’s men will certainly not feel as such. The ghosts of 2016 still linger very much in the imagination, but they will look to put them to bed at Loftus this Saturday, and get their year underway with a big win. France meanwhile, are without their Clermont and Toulon players, including captain Guilhem Guirado, who have been rested following the gruelling Top 14 final of a week ago. They have strung together a few untested combinations ahead of this clash, but will surely go for broke come the 17h05 kick-off.

South Africa v France | Saturday 10 June | Loftus Versfeld Stadium | 17h05

To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 3/10 | Draw 28/1 | France 9/4
South Africa (-6.5) 9/10 | France (+6.5) 9/10

South Africa
Eben Etzebeth has been animated all week when describing just how excited the Boks are to “climb into” the French this weekend – a serious amount of walking still needs to be done in order to justify all his talking, however. The Boks were found wanting in the physicality department last year, where they were often dominated by their opposition; to such an extent that many have argued that the Boks have lost their once intimidating abrasive aura.

Coetzee hasn’t done much in his selection to warrant any hope for change, however, as (with Duane Vermeulen out injured) he has picked a loose-trio consisting of captain Warren Whiteley at no. 8, and Oupa Mohoje at blindside – neither of whom will offer some much-needed go-forward – while Siya Kolisi gets the nod at openside. Jean-Luc du Preez has been named on the bench, and could come on sooner than expected should Mohoje and co. battle to gain the upper-hand against a team that has a certain Louis Picamoles to call upon.

The inexperienced backline (consisting of four new caps) will need to step up in a big way, and again, we could see Coetzee deploying the likes of Frans Steyn from the bench sooner in the Test, rather than later should things go awry on the scoreboard. The make-up of the starting side, which includes seven Lions players, suggests the Boks will attempt to play a more expansive game this weekend… it will be very interesting to see how it plays out.

According to Jake White, France’s game-plan is about as predictable as the Bulls’ Super Rugby results this year; but can Guy Noves prove the ever-chirpy White wrong this series? He has gone with a largely inexperienced forward-pack, with veteran lock Yoann Maestri named as captain.

The backline sees a new-look halfback combination, with scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud and flyhalf Jules Plisson set to lead the charge. A dangerous back-three of Virimi Vakatawa, Brice Dulin and Yoann Huget is sure to entertain, and will severely test the dangerously inexperienced Bok backs.

Expect much counter-attacking rugby from the likes of Vakatawa and Huget (who are both sure to see plenty of ball), while Picamoles will look to rattle the Bok pack with his immense ball-carrying ability. Although the Boks will take nothing for granted, they really should put away this very average French side.

Verdict: Springboks 3/10
I’d have gone for a very different result had the Clermont and Toulon players been selected. Nevertheless, the Boks should just get over the line in this one (if only due to sheer desperation), and should slightly alleviate the pressure on Mr Coetzee – albeit temporarily. There’s no doubting it will be a close call for the majority of the contest.

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Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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