The Springboks must produce a backlash when they tackle France in Paris this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
With some relief, focus gradually has begun to shift back to on-field matters after the widespread fallout from last Saturday’s controversial 84th-minute refereeing decision that largely overshadowed the end result at Twickenham.
The fact remains that the Boks’ 12-11 defeat to England has left their win-loss record for the year sitting at a measly 45%. Make no mistake, it’s turned this Saturday’s clash against France into a must-win match for the Springboks.
It’s no surprise then that Rassie Erasmus has looked to select his strongest available lineup, with all six returning overseas-based players named in the match 23.
In particular, the return of Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Franco Mostert will strengthen the spine of the starting lineup, with the Boks’ decision-making and lineouts having let them down last weekend.
It’s no coincidence that when De Klerk and Le Roux have been at their influential best as playmaking generals this year, the Springboks have generally come out on top.
De Klerk will certainly add some much-needed zip to the Bok attack, while Le Roux remains an ever-present danger when joining the line as another playmaker.
The loss of injured Eben Etzebeth is a big blow for the Springboks, but the retention of Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row means that the Boks will be pairing two highly-proficient lineout locks together.
This set piece will have been a central focus for the Boks this week after four lineouts went astray last Saturday, and in particular, Malcolm Marx is one of the players who Erasmus will be hoping can deliver an emphatic response.
Although France are in a rebuilding phase, they remain a team that boasts some influential and physical forwards such as towering No 8 Louis Picamoles, while the likes of Teddy Thomas and Camille Lopez offer X factor among the backs.
What the Boks will be hoping to do is bottle up the frustration from last weekend and unleash it in a performance that is far more accurate.
There is no getting away from the fact that for all of the Boks’ gainline and territorial dominance, they should have had England dead and buried well before the officials could have a game-changing influence on proceedings.
This has remained one of the chief frustrations for the Boks this year, with Erasmus’ charges creating more than enough opportunities, but their finishing has left a lot to be desired at times.
It’s some consistency that the Springboks are still desperately searching for, while they will be looking to their substitutes to provide a more meaningful impact now that Vincent Koch, Francois Louw and Cheslin Kolbe have added some more experience to the bench.
The Boks come into this match on a six-match winning streak against France, and there is little doubt that they should have the firepower to claim another positive result if they can eradicate the basic errors and poor ball retention that haunted them last weekend.
France – 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Damian Penaud, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Gael Fickou.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Photo: Anne Laing