Boks bid to break 12-year French hoodoo

World champions South Africa will seek to break a 12-year hoodoo when they take on France at the Municipal Stadium in Toulouse on Friday.

The Springboks last won on French soil in 1997, handing the home side a record 52-10 defeat in the national team’s final game at the iconic Parc des Princes in Paris.

There have since been three losses in France, while the French have also beaten the Boks twice away, most recently in their last encounter in Cape Town in 2006 (36-26).

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has made four changes to his starting line-up from the Boks’ last match in the Tri-Nations.

Zane Kirchner returns at fullback in place of Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen replaces Odwa Ndungane on the wing, while centre Adi Jacobs and No 8 Ryan Kankowski have both been promoted from the bench in the place of Jean de Villiers and Pierre Spies.

De Villiers was in bullish mood, saying: “I’ve had good experiences here with junior teams and also the Boks in 1997.

“France is one of those teams we respect and I expect them to come out with all guns blazing.”

When asked whether he expected the intensity of Friday’s clash would match that of the high-octane series against the British and Irish Lions, De Villiers said he thought it might be yet “more severe”.

“We’re playing France in France and that’s another story. We know how passionate the people are here, we know how the players can get raw energy from the crowd. It will be really tough, but that’s exactly what Test rugby’s about.

“France are a very good side, especially the pack.
They’re very physical and there are some hard-running backs,” he said.

Fittingly for a game to be held in the south-western heartland of French rugby, seven Toulouse players form the backbone of the France team, including Yann David who will win his second cap at centre.

Coach Marc Lievremont, who has used 68 players in his year-long tenure, named his 11th half-back pairing in Montpellier’s Francois Trinh-Duc and Julien Dupuy of Stade Francais, who gets the nod at scrumhalf following his strong displays during the summer tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Flanker Thierry Dusautoir captains a side that features a strong-looking forward pack.

“One of the biggest weapons is their well-balanced pack,” acknowledged Bok skipper John Smit.

“They have experience and power in the scrum, good line-out ball, and it will be one of our toughest Test matches this year.”

Dusautoir warned that his teammates would have to be “more intelligent” in adapting to the game if they wanted to notch up a victory.

“We’ll have to know how to use our kicking game and impose our pace, that will be one of the keys,” the Côte d’Ivoire-born forward said.

Dusautoir, who was part of the French team that beat New Zealand 27-22 during their summer tour down under, added that beating one of the Sanzar nations was “always an exploit”.

“We beat them as we can and each time we do it, it’s dubbed an exploit,” he said.

“The goal is to beat them a little more regularly and show that the France team can become a major rugby nation, not only thanks to its history but also to its performances.”

Scrumhalf Dupuy said that while the Boks must be respected as world champions, France should not display fear at the thought of playing them.

“You can’t go out there scared and showing them too much respect,” he said. “On the contrary, we’ll have to go out there and play, and play very well.”—AFP

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