Will Allister still be smiling at Kings Park?

DURBAN – Having not won a game in Durban in six attempts, albeit three of those counters were draws, France are ready to throw everything into the siege of Kings Park today (5pm), while the Springboks are looking for further improvements from last week’s positive showing.

It is perhaps apt that the French Barbarians are in town at the same time as the national team, for the feeling around Durban is that Les Bleus are here for an almighty battle. 

This horde of proud Frenchmen are preparing themselves for a huge second wave attack after the embarrassment of Loftus. And for the Boks? It is simply about improving their game.

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Courtnall Skosan will hope to get more opportunities on attack today. Photo: BackpagePixSiya Kolisi brought energy at close quarters at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: BackpagePixElton Jantjies played with greater confidence on attack last week. Photo: BackpagePix

For the first time in a long time, coach Allister Coetzee was last Saturday able to smile at the end of a Springbok performance. 

It was not the complete performance, and there was plenty to work on, but it was good enough to beat an undercooked French side and set a stake in the ground.

This week the threat will be bigger, and the game tougher, so Coetzee has called for more of the same, with improvements all round. 

With the French rallying their cavalry – the reinforcements from Clermont and Toulon shaking off the last bit of rust, and licking their wounds – Coetzee has turned a blind eye to the snarling Tricolor beast at the gates, looking towards his own camp instead.

“The French would not have been happy with their performance,” Coetzee commented. “But to be honest, the focus is on what we want to do and our process. We are off to a good start and we want to continue, irrespective of who comes in and who is not playing for them.

“We know we need to improve, and we want to get it right. In Test-match rugby, you will always be tested and it won’t get easier.”

Allister Coetzee was pleased with the Loftus performance, but knows it will be tougher at Kings Park. Photo: BackpagePix

France have made eight changes, which is being viewed as a massive strengthening of many areas of their game.

The Springboks, meanwhile, have made just the one injury enforced change that Coetzee believes will make little difference to their starting line-up’s ability.

Lionel Mapoe comes in for the concussed Jesse Kriel to partner Jan Serfontein, with Coetzee happy for it to be a like-for-like swop rather than a shuffling of the midfield to accommodate someone like Frans Steyn.

“It was an easy selection for me this week,” Coetzee explained. “The team performed well and we were happy with combinations, so with the injury, it was a no-brainer to bring Lionel Mapoe in as the only enforced change at 13. The hope is that they too will combine well in the end.”

With the French bolstered by some pretty hefty forwards, as well as a new and exciting halfback pairing, the aim for the Boks will be to try to nullify the momentum of the enraged Les Bleus.

Should the Boks have the physical ascendancy, the expectation is that the tries will flow.

“We want to stop the momentum of the French with our defence,” Coetzee explained. “We know they have a big physical team, and if they are not picking and going through Louis Picamoles, they will be charging off No 9 with their big wing Virimi Vakatawa, and their centres.

“If you get on the front foot, it becomes easy to play the game, you get to have width, and get the space.”

Malcolm Marx will face a tougher challenge against French captain Guilhem Guirado today. Photo: BackpagePix

So, other than trying to silence the French, Coetzee has also pointed out a few key areas that will be work-ons in only this second game of the year. “We will also hope to maintain the good things from Loftus, like the set-piece.

“We can be sure that France will come out and improve their scrum, so we have to be neat and tidy there. Our lineout could be better, so we have done a lot of work on it this week.

“We also made a few other errors and we want to cut those down too; and we can improve in all departments in the game.

“And I don’t want to see any less intensity and any less effort,” he concluded.

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