Springboks

SA 'A' v French Barbarians: Players to watch

2017-06-15 16:50
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - South Africa 'A' host the French Barbarians in what should be a thrilling encounter between two entertaining sides at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Friday.

Kick-off is at 16:45.

Both sides have named exciting teams with experienced players in key positions and with this fixture being a prelude to Saturday's clash between the Springboks and France in the same city, there will be players hoping to impress in a bid to earn a Test call-up if injuries occur in the international at Kings Park.

South Africa 'A' head coach Johan Ackermann takes charge of this side for the second successive year and will be highly motivated to improve on last year's effort when his troops suffered a 2-0 series defeat to the England Saxons.

Ackermann will be leaving South African shores at the end of the Lions' Super Rugby campaign to further his career in the Premiership with Gloucester and beating the Barbarians over the two-match series will be another impressive achievement to add to his CV.

With proven internationals like Juan de Jongh, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Combrinck and Jano Vermaak in their ranks, the South Africa 'A' side boasts a potent attacking back-line who should test the French Barbarians' defence.

And although their starting pack does not boast much Test experience, with only Uzair Cassiem capped at international level, they are all up and coming players on the South African scene who will be keen to make an impact.

The visitors, however, also have brilliant players in their ranks with veteran playmaker Frédéric Michalak leading their charge from flyhalf and as the side's captain.

As France's leading points-corer in Tests, Michalak is an experienced campaigner and he has faced several of the South Africa 'A' players when he played for the Sharks in separate stints in 2008 as well as 2011 to 2012.

In Pierre Mignoni, the French Baabaas have an innovative coach who has done well with Lyon. He guided them to 10th place in the recent Top 14 after overseeing their promotion from the Pro D2 as champions at the end of the 2015/16 season.

The French Barbarians have a blend of youth and experience and apart from Michalak, they will also rely on the likes of Stade Français duo Alexandre Flanquart and Jonathan Danty, who have represented France at Test level recently, while veteran second-row Arnaud Mela will also be keen to make an impact after announcing that he will retire at the end of this series.

Players to Watch:

For South Africa 'A': In Sikhumbuzo Notshe, the home side have one of South Africa's rising stars who is expected to make a telling impact from the base of the scrum. Notshe possesses a brilliant skill-set and thrives when the game becomes loose. He likes to link up with his backs especially in the wider channels and if he finds himself in space, he could wreak havoc. 

For French Barbarians: Keep an eye on the visitors' explosive winger Gabriel Lacroix, who was one of La Rochelle's stars during their fairytale run to the to the top of the table during the league phase of the Top 14. Lacroix is dangerous on attack and finished the Top 14 season with 10 tries.

Head-to-head: 

Both sides have flyhalves who are brilliant attackers and who will play important roles in implementing their respective sides' game-plans. As a veteran of 77 Tests, Fred Michalak brings plenty of experience to the French Baa-baas' cause which will prove handy in what should be a tough encounter. In Lionel Cronje, he faces a tough adversary who has set Super Rugby alight this year with several superb attacking performances for the Kings. Both are excellent goalkickers and this aspect of play could prove decisive between two evenly matched teams.

Teams:

South Africa 'A'

15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit

Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Handré Pollard

French Barbarians

15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jonathan Danty, 12 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet, 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Khatchik Vartanov 

Substitutes: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Clément Ric, 18 Tommy Raynaud, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Clément Poitrenaud

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