Cape Town - South Africa’s intention to hit France on
Saturday with the same sort of blunt instrument that knocked Scotland into fairly
easy submission are clear.
While it is true that the Springboks are managing to also
construct some easy-on-the-eye tries through crisp ball-in-hand play this year,
ceaseless physicality and ruthless execution of basics up front have been particularly
key hallmarks of the unbeaten European tour run thus far.
For Stade de France (kickoff 22:00 SA time), coach Heyneke
Meyer on Wednesday unveiled an unusually lopsided match-day 23, featuring as
many as 14 pack members in total and just nine backs: in simpler words, a 6-2
That will probably be fine as long as, touch wood, a leading
Bok backline player doesn’t succumb to some freak injury very early in
proceedings; resources in that department would suddenly look dangerously
threadbare if there is heaps of time still left on the clock.
One consolation is that all spots behind the scrum are still
fairly adequately covered, with Jano Vermaak the designated reserve scrumhalf –
he is nippy and crafty enough to also operate at wing, for instance, should the
And with Pat Lambie the other backline reserve, the
baby-faced Sharks favourite can operate confidently at any of fullback, flyhalf
or inside centre.
Ruan Pienaar, who returns to the No 9 jersey following
Fourie du Preez’s slightly curveball release from the squad, also sports no
lack of prior nous in a fullback or flyhalf capacity if the Boks find
themselves badly stretched and desperately re-organising for some reason.
In fairness, also, Meyer’s extraordinarily preoccupation
with forward depth for this final fixture of the season may be linked to the
minor medical uncertainty surrounding two of his regular loose forwards, Willem
Alberts and Francois Louw.
“Alberts” and “shoulder worry” go together like Mills &
Boon – it is a reason the Bone Collector only played the first half at
Murrayfield – whilst fetcher Louw, although happily named to start again, is
clearly still nursing the effects of that debatable cleanout from Scottish hard
man Jim Hamilton.
The Boks could summon both of Siya Kolisi and adaptable Pieter-Steph
du Toit (he played much of his 2012 Baby Boks campaign in the IRB Junior World
Championship at blindside flank) should they need as many as two loose forward
subs against France.
As far as the run-out XV is concerned, Meyer has not come up
with any surprises: although the Boks have not beaten France in their own
environment since way back in 1997, this really looks a team capable of putting
an end to that poor record – French rugby is on something of a dull, flat line
at present although they can still be counted on for the odd performance of
dangerous, sparkling resolve.
After much hoo-ha about what option he might take in the
absence at tighthead prop of both Jannie du Plessis and now Frans Malherbe, it
is a relief that Coenie Oosthuizen finally gets a “sink or swim” start-out
opportunity on what remains by instinct his wrong side of the scrum.
He looked solid enough there for the lion’s share of the
Scotland match, as a substitute, although the known French scrumming ethic
provides a sterner examination.
If things do look difficult for the burly Free Stater, there
is still the knowledge that Lourens Adriaanse -- who is of different, shorter
stature and is at least a No 3 specialist -- could probably function decently
there for up to 35 or 40 debut-making minutes even if he comes into this clash
undesirably short of game time ...
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