Dusautoir: Breakdown key
Cape Town - French captain Thierry Dusautoir says his team's ability to adapt to rugby union's new breakdown laws could be a key factor in the one-off Test against South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.
Dusautoir and coach Marc Lievremont downplayed their team's chances in a battle that pits the champions of the southern and northern hemispheres against each other.
"The Springboks are used to playing with the new laws," said Dusautoir of the rules introduced in the southern hemisphere this season to speed up play by requiring tacklers to let go of an opponent before contesting the ball.
"We don't play like this. We have to adapt. It will be hard for us but we expect to be smart enough not to give too many points to the Springboks."
Lievremont said the Test came at the end of a long season in the northern hemisphere.
"It is a very important game for us, especially at this part of the season when the players are not so fresh. It is always a big challenge playing a team from the southern hemisphere in June."
The Springboks, though, are under no illusions about the size of the challenge awaiting them against a team they have not beaten for nearly five years.
France have won the last three contests between the two countries, including a 36-26 triumph in Cape Town in 2006.
Springbok captain John Smit said he expected a highly physical contest against what he termed "a champion side" that played a similar brand of rugby to his own team.
"They play a physical game, they look for forward domination and they like to move the ball with the backs," said Smit.
Both teams believe the forwards battle will be crucial, with Smit acknowledging that the Springbok scrummaging was not at its best in the 34-31 win against Wales in Cardiff last Saturday.
Lievremont highlighted Bok strength in the line-outs.
"The Springboks beat Wales on line-outs," he said. "It will be a very difficult battle stopping the Springboks setting up mauls from the line-outs."
The French are missing some key players through injury, including number eight Imanol Harinordoquy and big centre Mathieu Bastareaud, but still have the bulk of the side that claimed a Six Nations Grand Slam this year.
In a strong pack, Dusautoir and Julien Bonnaire are highly skilled and experienced loose forwards who, with new cap Wenceslas Lauret, will hope to match a powerful back row that includes stars Schalk Burger and Pierre Spies.
Morgan Parra (scrum) and Francois Trinh-Duc (fly) have impressed as a halfback combination, while the Boks will miss outstanding scrum-half Fourie du Preez because of injury.
Lievremont said he believed replacement Ricky Januarie would be hard pressed to exert the same influence as Du Preez.
"Januarie is a good player but not as precise as Du Preez," he said.
The Springboks rested several top players against Wales but have picked their best available team for the France game, which some pundits believe will give an indication of form ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
"It's an opportunity to gain confidence looking ahead to the World Cup," said South Africa coach Peter de Villiers.
Dusautoir said: "It's always very important to win against a southern hemisphere nation but, with regard to the World Cup, it is more important to progress, to be improving and to be ready."