Preview: South Africa v France

South Africa will be hoping to finish their three-Test series on a high when they take on France in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Although they have already won the series – after notching impressive victories in Pretoria and Durban – beating les Bleus this weekend will be a massive achievement for Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee and his charges.

After the lows of 2016, when the two-time world champions won just four out of 12 Tests, the feel good factor has returned to Springbok rugby thanks to those impressive performances in the two previous Tests.

The way they have dismantled France in their previous two Tests, the Boks will fancy their chances of winning this Test and judging from the attacking side picked by Coetzee, the home side will head into this clash brimming with confidence.

In both previous Tests in the series, the Boks managed to score four tries, a feat which was a rarity in 2016 and the performances of players like Elton Jantjies, Siya Kolisi, Andries Coetzee, Jean-Luc du Preez and Franco Mostert have all been superb up to now.

That and the superb team spirit within their camp, means the Boks are on the brink of achieving a memorable and deserved series whitewash.

A concern for the home side, however, is the fact that the Boks are yet to beat France at Ellis Park after les Bleus were victorious in the four previous matches at the iconic venue in 1958, 1967, 1993 and 2001.

France have not presented the challenge which many expected from them in this series and apart from a brief period in the opening Test, they haven't really posed a serious threat to the Boks' defence although they dominated the territorial and possession stakes.

In fact, France enjoyed 66 percent of the possession and 64 percent of the territory in Durban but could only cross their opponents' try-line once as they were kept in check by an incredible defensive effort from the Boks, who made 178 tackles compared to les Bleus' 63.

France head coach Guy Novès has made some changes to his back-line and he expects a much improved showing from his charges.

“After the first two Tests, we were able to evaluate a little the state of the damage," he said.

"Looking at the third Test, it will be interesting to see if the work of three to four weeks will bring something,"

The decision to retain the entire pack which started in Durban could be significant and don't be surprised if les Bleus' forward play has a bearing on the game's outcome.

Players to watch: 

For South Africa: After a superb performance in the opening Test in Pretoria, Jesse Kriel missed last weekend's encounter in Durban due to concussion. Since bursting onto the international scene in 2015, Kriel has shifted between full-back and centre in the Test arena but after shining in the number 13 jersey in Pretoria, the 23-year-old could cement his place in the Bok midfield with another commanding display in this Test. Also keep an eye on Jean-Luc du Preez, who makes his run-on debut for the Boks after impressive cameos off the bench in his three previous Tests. Du Preez will be expected to continue where he left off in Durban, where his physical approach at the coalface of the Boks' forward effort proved a handful for les Bleus.

For France: If the visitors want to leave South Africa with a victory, much will depend on how their inexperienced half-back duo of Jules Plisson and Baptiste Serin combine. Plisson started the first Test but failed to stamp his authority on that match and will be determined to make the most of this second chance. Serin is an exciting prospect who showed a glimpse of his attacking ability when he scored a deserved try in Pretoria. With the series already lost, this Test presents Plisson and Serin with an opportunity to stake their claims to become permanent fixtures in France's starting line-up.

Head-to-head: Springbok skipper Warren Whiteley has held the upperhand in his duel with his direct oppoonent, Louis Picamoles, over the two previous Tests but Picamoles will be determined to finish his tour to South Africa on a high by delivering his best performance of the series. Picamoles was forced off the field in the first half in Durban through injury and will be champing at the bit to make up for lost time this weekend. Although these players have contrasting styles, both are very effective in what they do and will play important roles for their respective sides.

Previous results:

2017: South Africa won 37-15 in Durban
2017: South Africa won 37-14 in Pretoria
2013: South Africa won 19-10 in Paris
2010: South Africa won 42-17 in Cape Town
2009: France won 20-13 in Toulouse
2006: France won 36-26 in Cape Town
2005: France won 26-20 in Paris
2005: South Africa won 27-13 in Port Elizabeth
2005: They drew 30-30 in Durban
2002: France won 30-10 in Marseilles  
2001: France won 20-10 in Paris  

Prediction: France will deliver their best performance of the series but this Springbok side will prove too strong. South Africa to win by seven points.

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Francois Trinh Duc, 23 Vincent Rattez

Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-Off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Comments