JOHANNESBURG - It is in the emotionally arousing lyrics of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, that the Springboks will fully appreciate the backlash that awaits them ahead of the second Test at King’s Park on Saturday.
“To arms, citizens. Form your battalions. Let’s march, let’s march. Let an impure blood soak our fields!” it cries out.
And with that the French will march to Durban, vowing to come out firing and restore some pride in their performance, which was found wanting against the Springboks in their 37-14 loss at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The French failed to keep up with the pace of the game but were also beaten by the ferocity with which the Springboks played the game and the dominance they enjoyed in most facets of play.
“We are going to have a look at the good and the bad from this game and we will have to use the coming week to improve on those areas and try to get better,” said France captain Yoann Maestri.
And so the Boks should expect a backlash as Les Bleus will see at least six of their frontline stars return to the team after spending last week nursing the bumps and bruises from a demanding Top 14 final between Clermont and Toulon.
With the quick turnaround time from playing in their domestic final to preparing adequately for the opening Test of the series, France deemed it sensible to rest their top players and select a new-look side that included 11 changes from that which played in their last international against Wales in the Six Nations.
Regular captain and hooker Guilhein Guirado, prop Xavier Chiocci, lock Arthur Iturria, flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, centre Damian Penaud, lock Romain Taofifenua and South African-born fullback Scott Spedding are all set to return.
By French admission, the Boks were the better side in their battle in the capital but the northern hemisphere outfit will target the second Test as their last chance to restore parity in the series.
France coach Guy Noves conceded as much and promised there would be consequences for certain individuals who didn’t front up at Loftus. “We were dominated physically as individuals and as a collective. We failed to adapt to the athleticism of the Springboks and that made it difficult for us to play our type of rugby,” said Noves.
“We will look at the game again and see where we went wrong but we must do it quickly ahead of the next Test. There are individuals who could respond well to this but we must also look at the quality of the opposition that we will be playing.”