Paul Dobson from Rugby365.com previews the test between the Frogs and the Boks.
It will be tough in Toulouse when the two big, abrasive packs meet on Friday night, in the beating heart of France’s passionate rugby.
If Imanol Harinordoquy’s wartalk is anything to go by the French forwards will get stuck in. They think the Springboks are nasty and intend meeting nasty with nasty. But then Harinordoquy has talked big before, not always cleverly and not always with good results for himself or his side.
Furthermore the Springboks have been more respectful of the laws than sometimes in the past. In the three Tri-Nations matches in South Africa, they were penalised just under half as much as their opponents. But then, impartiality being what it is, away from home they were penalised twice as much as their opponents, and this time they are away from home.
Obviously penalties are important in deciding close encounters, and this will be a close encounter. France had Joël Jutge, the former Test referee, talk to referee Wayne Barnes at the Lensbury conference wanting the ruck well controlled and a watchful eye kept on offside, especially from kicks. The French noted that André Watson, South Africa’s manager of referees, had also spoken to Barnes.
When there are penalties, there is often telling kicking and South Africa probably have the more telling kicker in cool-headed Morné Steyn. They have based much of their game on clever kicking, and do it with great success. This could make life hard for big Damien Traille playing out of position at fullback and possibly cumbersome.
After seeing the demolition job Martín Castrogiovanni did on the Springboks when they played Leinster, the French front row must be licking its lips. Castrogiovanni had never dome to any of them what he did to Gürthro Steenkamp and co. The French front row is tough enough to dominate the Springboks and one would expect a more concerted, eight-man contribution from the Springboks this time.
Both sides have tall men in the line-outs and should be able to ensure their own ball. France has options enough for them to be able to avoid throwing to Romain Millo-Chlusky if Victor Matfield is in his vicinity.
If the scrums and line-outs are equal, a lot will depend on the loose forwards and here the Springboks may just have the edge with stocky Heinrich Brüssow who has had the chance compete against masterly fetchers such as Richie McCaw, George Smith and David Pocock.
France, from scrumhalf to fullback, have big, muscular backs, which could just be detrimental if they have to turn around or when there is a competition for speed. They do not have a player of Fourie du Preez’s class to run the game.
The French backs may well target Adrian Jacobs in the vulnerable inside centre channel. It’s a good position to have big Maxime Mermoz or Louis Picamoles or, when arrives, Sébastien Chabal charging like wildebeest at the little tourist.
The French approach is likely to be direct and uncompromising, but this Springbok side is battle-hardened and has men who can cope.
John Smit has shown the value of captaincy even in the modern game of broadcast instructions. He is streets ahead of Thierry Dusautoir in experience – the most capped Test captain of all-time against a novice.
Players to watch: If there is to be any flair it may well come from scrumhalf Julien Dupuy who can snipe effectively and flyhalf François Trinh-Duc who opened up the New Zealand defence with that great try at Carisbrook this year. There is greater potential flair on the Springbok side with Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Jaque Fourie. You would want to watch those and you will see Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. Personality seems to rest with the South Africans.
Head to Head: The most important contest could be that between France’s new captain Thierry Dusautoir and South Africa’s new player Heinrich Brüssow who in a few matches has risen to stardom. There is also potentially an interesting contest at No.8 between strong, robust Louis Picamoles and fast, clever Ryan Kankowski. If it is tough, Picamoles is likely to flourish. If there are chances to run, Kankowski can do that. But the big head-to-head could just be front three against front three – Nicolas Mas, William Servat and Fabien Barcella against John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira.
2006: France won 36-26 at Newlands
2005: France won 26-20 at Stade de France, Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13 at Boet Erasmus, Port Elizabeth
2005: Draw 30-30 at King’s Park, Durban
2002: France won 30-10 at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
2001: France won 20-10 at Stade de France, Paris
2001: South Africa won 20-15 at King’s Park, Durban
2001: France won 32-23 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1997: South Africa won 52-10 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1996: South Africa won 13-12 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1996: South Africa won 22-12 at Stade Municipal, Bordeaux
1995: South Africa won 19-15 at King’s Park Stadium, Durban
1993: France won 18-17 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1993: Draw 20-20 at King’s Park, Durban
1992: France won 29-16 at Parc des Princes, Paris
1992: South Africa won 20-15 at Stade Gerland, Lyon
That means in 16 matches, two have been drawn and France and South Africa have each won seven. France won three times in South Africa, South Africa four times in France.
France are not easy meat in France. In that time the All Blacks have played eight times in France, winning five with a draw. In New Zealand France have won three out of nine. Two of those were in 1994 when the won the series against the All Blacks and the third was in June this year.
France are tough opponents.
rugby365.com Prediction: France to win by about five in a touch encounter.
France: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Cédric Heymans, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Romain Millo-Chluski, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Fabien Barcella
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Sylvain Marconnet, 18 Sébastien Chabal, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 David Marty, 22 Maxime Médard.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Adi Jacobs, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Andries Bekker, 20 Danie Rossouw, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier.
Date: Friday, 13 November 2009
Kick-off: 20.45 (19.45 GMT 21.45 SA time)
Venue: Stadium Municipal, Toulouse
Expected weather conditions: Overcast with a high of 18°C, dropping to 10°C and a light wind from the southeast.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), James Jones (Wales)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)