International Rugby: France v South Africa Preview

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A beleaguered Springbok outfit will be seeking a spot of redemption when they take on the French at the Stade de France on Saturday the 18th of November.

The result of Wednesday's controversial 2023 World Cup bidding process has made France's showdown with South Africa this weekend an even more hotly anticipated contest. Having secured the rights to host the showpiece, France will now feel they have a point to prove, and a Springbok scalp would mean a hell of a lot to fans of Le Bleu. Allister Coetzee's side meanwhile, are renowned for bouncing back strongly from disappointing Test defeats and, let's be honest, it doesn't get much more disappointing than a record loss to the Irish in Dublin. This clash has all the makings of a classic.

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France v South Africa | Saturday | 18 November | Stade de France | 22:00

To Win (80 Mins)
France 5/10 | Draw 20/1 | South Africa 15/10
France (-3.5) 9/10 | South Africa (+3.5) 9/10


The French display against the All Blacks last week wasn't as dismal as many predicted. Despite eventually succumbing to a 38-18 defeat, France managed to win the second-half 13-7 and certainly looked menacing in patches. Guy Nov├ęs doesn't have too many injury concerns ahead of this weekend's crunch clash with the Boks, and the 63-year-old will be pushing his charges to produce a full 80-minute performance at the Stade de France this Saturday.

On the basis of the Springbok's horror-show of a week ago, the French have more than enough grunt up front to win the gain-line battle. The scrum battle in particular looks set to be an intense one, and the winner of that dual will have a huge bearing on the Test match - particularly with sunny conditions expected in Saint-Denis. Guilhem Guirado's heavy-hitters wouldn't have forgotten the way the Bok pack bullied them in their 3-0 series loss in June, and you can bet your bottom that the sweet smell of revenge will be in the air come kick-off.

One of the more interesting aspects of their New Zealand defeat was in the way the French backs really expressed themselves on attack during the second-stanza; at times, it almost seemed as though they were back at their classical best. If the Le Bleu backline decides to play with a similar level of intensity from the get-go this Saturday, they will be far too good for a poor 'Bok defence to keep at bay - especially considering the size of wingers, Teddy Thomas and Yohan Huget.

South Africa

The past week has certainly been one to forget for Springbok supporters. That record loss to Ireland was followed up by the midweek news that the 2023 World Cup would, in fact, be hosted by France; this after World Rugby's governing body had named South Africa as their preferred host candidate. Alas, things won't get any easier as the 'Boks as they face a huge test in the form of the men that pipped them in the race to host the 2023 tournament.

The return of Duane Vermeulen, and the elevation of Handre Pollard to the starting line-up should make a massive difference this Saturday. The hulking Vermeulen will be chomping at the bit to take to the field, having last tasted international footy in June of 2016, while Pollard (himself weighing in at a very modest 97kg) boasts all the tactical and physical prowess to take the 'Boks forward from first-five eighth. Saturday is very much a case of unleashing the beast for the South Africans.

The defensive organizational skills of Vermeulen at eighthman will help tidy what can only be described as a shockingly erratic Bok defensive line, while his mere presence is sure to play lift all those around him. A much more balanced loose-trio, which also consists of Francois Louw in his preferred number 6 jumper and Siya Kolisi at blindside, will have a big role to play in disrupting French ball at the breakdown, and ensuring their side remains on the front-foot throughout the contest.

The Teams

France: 15 Nans Ducuing; 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Mathieu Bastareaud, 11 Yoann Huget; 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Antoine Dupont; 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Judicael Cancoriet; 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina; 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1Jefferson Poirot
Substitutes: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Damian Penaud

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi , 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane , 19 Franco Moster, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian de Allende

Verdict: South Africa 15/10
I'm expecting the Springboks to rebound strongly following the Ireland setback, with a win this weekend. It may not be enough to save Allister Coetzee his job, but the return of Vermeulen and Pollard should go a long way to ensuring the French suffer a fourth loss of the year to the battling 'Boks.

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