No need to panic for the Springboks

There is no panic in the Springbok camp after Friday’s unexpected loss by the midweek side to the Leicester Tigers, but there is a great awareness of the challenge awaiting them in the upcoming Test against France in Toulouse.

The Test will be a special game for Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir, who was the coach in charge of the losing team against the Tigers and also a member of the last Springbok side to win in a Test in France. That was in 1997 when the team, under Nick Mallet, outplayed the French 52-10 in Paris.

Since then the Boks have lost all three of their matches against France on French soil—10-20 in Paris in 2001, 10-30 in Marseilles the following year and 20-26 in 2005, again in Paris.

Just how difficult France as opponents are is reflected by the fact that the Boks have won only two matches and drawn one against them since 1997 with five wins going to France.

While Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said it was an eye-opener to lose against the Tigers, Bok forward coach Gary Gold emphasised the danger posed by the French pack in particular at a media conference on Monday.

“There are more positives than negatives in the loss,” said De Villiers. “Now we know where we’re going.
We knew it would be tough
with only a week’s preparation.

“It was an eye-opener, but if we didn’t have the game we wouldn’t have known [what we do now].

“One of the problems we have agreed upon is that of leadership. We now know to address that,” he said in a discussion where it was
made very clear that the management was looking beyond 2011.

Gold warned that the French were “an emotional team, with a lot of passion.

“They have a big strong pack and they will be very physical.”

He twice compared them to the New Zealand pack.

“They’re the one team in the world with New Zealand who can match our forwards with size,” he said, after he had earlier mentioned that he agreed with De Villiers that France are as tough as the All Blacks.

“They’ll be playing in a small stadium—and if a French side comes out firing they can rip the heart out of anybody.”

De Villiers admitted it was a great challenge. “France is one of our goals on the tour,” he said.

The Springboks leave for Toulouse on Tuesday night where they will join up with the Springbok midweek team who will have to return to England for their match against Saracens next Tuesday.

The side to play France in Friday night’s test will be announced on Tuesday with two changes at loose forward expected because of the injuries to Pierre Spies and Juan Smith. Jacobs at inside centre for Jean de Villiers, who now plays for Munster, and Zane Kirchner should be the fullback in place of Frans Steyn who has opted for club rugby in France.—Sapa

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