DURBAN – The Springboks settled into their hotel up on the Umhlanga Ridge in Durban on Monday and while they were counting a miserly cost of just one injured player, the French squad down below on the beachfront were enjoying the presence of seven of their best players from the French Top 14 Final last week.
The Boks were just about at full-strength going into Saturday’s 37-14 victory over a French team that was underwhelmed in that some of their best players could not be considered for the first Test in because they arrived too late in the week to be considered for selection.
This is not to say the Boks are suddenly underdogs for the second Test but it does indicate that France will be stronger.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee admitted as much after declaring that his team had been “lucky” in only losing centre Jesse Kriel to concussion. He will be replaced at 13 by Lions centre Lionel Mapoe.
“We are preparing for a very strong French team that will be boosted by some of their best players,” Coetzee said.
“(Captain) Warren Whiteley has already said that we lost too many collisions in Pretoria and we know that it is only going to get tougher this week.
“We are preparing for a better French team,” Coetzee continued. “This is going to be a very physical contest and we know the French will feel boosted by the return of some very influential players.
“We are under no illusions that the French challenge will be even stronger this week, and we have to respond accordingly.”
Coetzee said that he would pick a team that was as close as possible to the side that won convincingly in Pretoria, the absence of Kriel notwithstanding.
“Obviously we want continuity but unfortunately Jesse has been ruled out of the match because of concussion, and that means we have to relook at our midfield,” Coetzee said.
“There are many who will feel this is a good opportunity to bring Frans Steyn back into the starting line-up at 12, with Jan Serfontein moving to 13, but I feel this would mean we end up making two changes in the midfield when we only have to make one.
“Jan Serfontein had an excellent game at 12, I feel he was outstanding, and I want to keep him in his natural position. It was the type of performance from him that we have been hoping for because he is no longer a youngster, and in this game he put up his hand and showed that he is coming through as a senior.
“In terms of outside centre, it makes sense to bring in Lionel Mapoe, who is fully recovered from injury and raring to go.”
Coetzee said that Damian de Allende was still struggling with injury and would be sent back to the Stormers to undergo rehabilitation.
Coetzee admitted that his back three had been under pressure going into the first Test given that they were collectively small in stature compared to the top international teams.
“I know there were questions asked of them going into the Test but how pleasing was it to see that they answered those questions with courage and attitude? You can’t coach those things, and I found the performance of the back three extremely pleasing,” Coetzee said.
“The French will be better in Durban, but so will we,” Coetzee said. “They are going to come at us with their full-strength side but we will stick to our processes and ‘up’ our focus on patience on attack, because we feel we were enthusiastic at times and rushed passes that could have resulted in tries.
“But these are problems that are eliminated with composure and this is what we are hoping for this week.”