Springboks against France at the Stade de France today preview

It might not be fair, but the Springboks know that their 2013 campaign will be defined by the result of their match against France at the Stade de France today .When the curtain comes down on the South African season at around midnight (SA time), a Bok victory would confirm the hype that has steadily built around Jean de Villiers’ team while a defeat would question whether the Boks really are making ground on the pace-setting All Blacks.

The Springbok Test season kicked off 12 Tests ago in June when Italy were thrashed 44-10 in Durban. Five months later, the Boks visit France, who earlier this year were humiliated by that same Italy team in the Six Nations.

France had been tipped to win the Six Nations but came stone last. Typical, many said, because when it comes to the French rugby team, the only thing you can predict is that they are unpredictable.

France had to pick themselves up from the Six Nations canvas and travel to New Zealand in June for their “revenge” series against the All Blacks, who had fortuitously scraped home 9-8 against the French in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.

In a re-enactment of that final at Eden Park, France were competitive in losing 23-13 but then suffered hidings in the second and third Tests. There was a fourth Test match this year between these countries just a fortnight ago, this time in Paris, and the hosts pulled themselves together after their forgettable season and came within a whisker of drawing the match (lost 26-19) when they spent the last five minutes camped on the New Zealand try-line.

It is this French beast that the Boks are wary of, not the despairing bunch who six months ago sunk to defeat to Italy.

That is the thing with the French. They have, in fact, beaten the All Blacks on 12 occasions over the years which is by some margin more than their Northern Hemisphere colleagues have (England have done it seven times, Wales three times, and Ireland and Scotland have never managed it, never mind Italy).

But by the same token, France have lost to Italy on three occasions in recent years, simply because they did not pitch up for work on the day, and the Italians did.

There is little chance, though, that the French will have a questionable work ethic tomorrow. The word out of their camp is that their horrible year thus far can be rescued to a significant degree by defeating a Springbok team that is second only to the All Blacks and clearly ahead of the chasing pack below them.

And the Springboks, having come so far this season in their second year under Heyneke Meyer, are anxious to not let it slip now. They have done the hard work – undefeated in that quadrangular series in South Africa in June, home and away wins over Australia and Argentina in the Rugby Championship, a victory in Cardiff over the Six Nations champions and an imposing 28-0 defeat of Scotland last week.

“Beating a tough team like France in Paris would be the icing on the cake after a long and productive year,” said flyhalf Morne Steyn. “The guys are keen to go on holiday, but they don’t want to do it with a sour taste in their mouths.”

Indeed, they want the beer to taste sweet and cold when they put their feet up. Just ask the All Blacks what it feels like to have a good year and then undo it in the last match. It happened to them at Twickenham in November 2012, when England shocked them.

Their coach Steve Hansen said at the time: “The worst thing is that it will be more than six months before our next Test match, when we can hopefully put things right. That is a long time to be coming off a defeat!”

Springboks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lourens Adriaanse, Bakkies Botha, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Jano Vermaak, Pat Lambie.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Sofiane Guitoune, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (capt), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Yannick Forestier.

Substitutes: Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yannick Nyanga, Jean-Marc Doussain, Frédéric Michalak, Mathieu Bastareaud.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Kick-off: 10pm (SA time).

Mike Greenaway in Paris

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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