France plot Bok downfall
Cape Town - France have been quietly plotting the downfall of world rugby champions South Africa against the background of the Soccer World Cup kicking off on Friday.
The Six Nations champions have not lost to the Springboks for five years and, although rugby union has been pushed from its usually permanent place on the backpages, Saturday's Test at Newlands has not diminished in importance less than 15 months out from the World Cup.
Despite three consecutive victories over South Africa, France will still start the match as underdogs and Friday's World Cup clash between the national soccer team and Uruguay near their hotel has not been allowed to interfere with their preparations.
"The World Cup is huge and our national team is playing down the road, but none of the players chosen for the test will be attending the match," team spokesperson Lionel Rossigneux said on Thursday. "We are here to play rugby."
France captain Thierry Dusautoir said: "It's the first time we've had our national football team play in the same country. It would be great to watch them but we have other things on our minds."
By contrast, the Springboks have appeared on numerous radio and television shows this week to express support for their footballing compatriots.
Asked whether the World Cup hype had hampered his side's preparations, vice-captain Victor Matfield told reporters on Thursday: "Not at all. It's a great event for our country. We hear the vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) from our hotel rooms all day long but weÕve been focusing on what we must do.
"We've done all the hard work and we're 100 percent focused on this game."
South Africa have beaten France only twice in their last nine meetings dating back to 2001. The Springboks' last victory came in 2005, while they were well beaten the last time the two sides met at Newlands four years ago.
Coach Marc Lievremont has named uncapped flanker Wenceslas Lauret in an experienced starting team while Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has recalled a number of frontline players after resting them against Wales last week.
Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger, Gurthro Steenkamp and Jean de Villiers, all of whom were part of the Springboks' 2007 World Cup squad, return to the match 22.
In addition, regular starters Morne Steyn and Pierre Spies reclaim the flyhalf and number eight jerseys while their Blue Bulls teammate Flip van der Merwe takes his place on the bench as the only uncapped player.
South Africa - 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jaque Fourie, 12. Wynand Olivier, 11.Bryan Habana, 10. Morne Steyn, 9.Ricky Januarie, 8.Pierre Spies, 7. Francois Louw, 6. Schalk Burger, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Danie Rossouw, 3. BJ Botha, 2. John Smit (captain), 1. Gurthro Steenkamp.
Substitutes: 16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Dewald Potgieter, 20. Ruan Pienaar, 21. Juan de Jongh, 22. Jean de Villiers.
France - 15. Clement Poitrenaud, 14. Vincent Clerc, 13. David Marty, 12. Maxime Mermoz, 11. Aurelien Rougerie, 10. Francois Trinh-Duc, 9. Morgan Parra, 8. Julien Bonnaire, 7. Wenceslas Lauret, 6. Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5. Romain Millo-Chluski, 4. Lionel Nallet, 3. Nicolas Mas, 2. Dimitri Szarzewski, 1.Thomas Domingo.
Substitutes: 16. Guilhem Guirado, 17. Jean Baptiste Poux, 18. Julien Pierre, 19. Louis Picamoles, 20. Dimitri Yachvili, 21. David Skrela, 22. Marc Andreu.