DURBAN: South Africa coach Allister Coetzee expects a ‘huge onslaught’ from France Saturday in a Durban Test that could decide the three-match series.
The Springboks lead 1-0 after a 37-14 victory over the severely depleted Les Bleus in Pretoria last weekend as they seek to put a disastrous first season for Coetzee behind them.
He oversaw a calendar-year record eight losses in 12 Tests for South Africa, fuelling media speculation that a series loss to the French would spell the end for the 54-year-old.
Coetzee labelled the Pretoria success “the start of a new chapter” while admitting that much-changed France are set to pose a much greater threat at Kings Park stadium.
“We know we will be up against a very well prepared French team in the second Test and are readying ourselves for that,” he told reporters in the Indian Ocean port city.
“They want to bounce back and we want to continue with our processes. Both teams have a lot to play for.
“Although not perfect, I am pleased with our set pieces and expect a huge onslaught from the French in the scrums and line-outs.”
Among eight starting changes by Les Bleus coach Guy Noves are two in the front row, one in the “engine room” and one in the back row, all designed to beef up the pack.
Skipper Guilhem Guirado, rested with six other squad members for the Pretoria Test after playing in the French Top 14 final the previous weekend, is recalled.
So are tighthead prop Rabah Slimani, lock Romain Taofifenua and flanker Kevin Gourdon, while more will be expected of star No. 8 Louis Picamoles than he achieved last weekend.
Former provincial scrum-half and Western Stormers coach Coetzee also believes France will be more formidable at half-back for the second Test.
Fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc and scrum-half Baptiste Serin replace Jules Plisson and Maxime Machenaud, who failed to click at Loftus Versfeld stadium.
“Serin is a much bigger threat around the fringes and more of an attacking force in that he asks lots of questions,” observed Coetzee.
“Trinh-Duc is an experienced player who makes good decisions and brings the players around him into the game.
“The French half-back pairing is going to be a much bigger threat than in Pretoria and a lot of their game revolves around the pair.
“Hopefully, we can apply pressure and it will be up to our players, particularly the loose forwards, to cut down their space and ensure they do not have time to make decisions.”
The other two French alterations see South Africa-born Scott Spedding coming in at full-back and a first cap for outside centre Damian Penaud.
A son of former Les Bleus playmaker Alain, 20-year-old Penaud is rewarded for outstanding late-season form with Top 14 champions Clermont.
“We have the feeling, as with others, that he has talent. Now he must express it,” said France coach Guy Noves.
Coetzee reacted predictably to only his second victory in nine Tests by making just one change, and that was enforced with Lionel Mapoe replacing Jesse Kriel at outside centre.
Kriel scored the first try in Pretoria and later suffered concussion, opening the door for Mapoe, who watched the first Test from the grandstand due to a hamstring strain.
The inclusion of Mapoe raised to eight the number of Springbok starters from Golden Lions, the best-performing South African Super Rugby side for several seasons.
Another Lion is skipper and No. 8 Warren Whiteley, who echoed the views of Coetzee regarding France.
“It is going to be a helluva Test,” he predicted. “The French have done their homework and believe they can level the series.” -- AFP