PARIS – Desperation will drive both France and South Africa in their international Test match on Saturday, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee believes.
Both sides are in poor form and have endured a torrid time since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
South Africa suffered their worst ever season in 2016, losing eight of 12 full international matches while 2017 has seen then suffer an all-time record defeat – 57-0 at the hands of New Zealand in September – before last week going down to their heaviest loss to Ireland 38-3.
Added to that, they discovered on Wednesday they had missed out on the right to host the 2023 World Cup to France.
But Coetzee says it is the desire to improve on their 50 percent win percentage this year rather than notions of bid revenge which is motivating them ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Stade de France.
“Obviously losing the bid, it’s not ideal for a country like South Africa,” said the 54-year-old coach.
“We would have loved to be having that opportunity, it would’ve been massive for our country.
“We accept the result, but for us as a team, we focus on the Test this week. It won’t motivate us necessarily differently.
“We’ve got a plan, and we’d like to go and execute our plan and perform; that’s our job, we need to play well.
“We’ve got what I would say is a very improved French team that will come out.
“In a way, both teams are desperate this weekend to get a result, and that’s what we’re facing.”
The Springboks won their first five matches this year, including a comfortable 3-0 whitewash of the touring French in June, but have not won in five more since.
Guy Noves can hardly boast a better record than Coetzee since taking over the France reins following their humiliating 62-13 World Cup quarter-final mauling by New Zealand in 2015.
Seven wins have been offset by 12 defeats, but Coetzee has been impressed with the new breed of young stars blooded by Noves, including halfback pair Antoine Dupont and Anthony Belleau.
“When you look at the French team and see the changes compared to the team that played in South Africa (in June), they have got an exciting halfback combination, and then you have (Mathieu) Bastareaud, who is the big centre to generate gain-line and momentum.
“The French style of play is an exciting one and the sniping scrumhalf (Dupont) really played well against the All Blacks and at 10, (Belleau) is also really an elusive runner.
“That’s the reason why they add spice to their game.”
While Coetzee has made four changes to the side which capitulated in the final 10 minutes against Ireland, conceding three converted tries, Noves has picked the same starting XV that lost 38-18 to New Zealand.
But he warned his players they are under pressure from those who featured in the French XV that lost only 28-23 to a second string New Zealand in Lyon on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if they should be looking for revenge or simply to show the side they did a bit more intelligently in the second half,” said Noves about that All Blacks defeat, in which his side ‘won’ the second period 13-7 having been blown off the park in a scintillating first 40 minutes by the tourists.
“I expect them to lift themselves and come off the pitch, as their pals did (on Tuesday), with their heads held high.”